Cape Town - The Rebels have named three debutants in their starting XV and two on the bench for Thursday's Super Rugby opener against the Blues in Melbourne (kick-off 10:45 SA time).
New recruits Amanaki Mafi, Jackson Garden-Bachop and Jack Maddocks have been named in the run-on team while home grown rookie Jordan Uelese and Tyrel Lomax have been included as reserves.
Rebels head coach Tony McGahan has named Mafi at No 8 which will see Wallaby back-row Lopeti Timani paired alongside Steve Cummins, who will make his second start for the club, in the second row.
The combination of scrumhalf Nic Stirzaker and flyhalf Garden-Bachop has got the nod the first opening round with Jack Debreczeni to continue at fullback and Maddocks to make his debut on the right wing.
The halfback pairing will celebrate milestones with Stirzaker to record his 50th Super Rugby appearance and Garden-Bachop to become the club’s 100th capped Rebel.
The 22-year-old Garden-Bachop comes from a long line of New Zealand internationals with dad Stephen Bachop, uncle Graeme Bachop and cousins Aaron and Nathan Mauger all playing for the All Blacks at either Test or tour level, while his mother Sue also played rugby for New Zealand.
The Rebels will be without Toby Smith and James Hanson in the front row after the pair suffered injuries in the final trial match against the Reds while Sefa Naivalu will miss the game after failing to overcome an infection.
“A couple injuries and illnesses during the trial phase has impacted selection for our season opener but the situation presents an early opportunity for players to put their hand up and stake their claim for positions,” said McGahan.
“It’s unfortunate we’re missing key players for Round One, we gave everyone the chance to prove their fitness and availability, but it’s too early in the season to risk the long term health of our players with a big season still ahead of us.”
Substitute hooker Uelese is set to become the third Victorian to make his Super Rugby debut for the Rebels, following Sione Tuipulotu and Rob Leota in 2016, and Jake Schatz is likely to make his Rebels debut off the bench.
15 Jack Debreczeni, 14 Jack Maddocks, 13 Mitch Inman, 12 Reece Hodge, 11 Tom English, 10 Jackson Garden-Bachop, 9 Nic Stirzaker (captain), 8 Amanaki Mafi, 7 Colby Fainga’a, 6 Jordy Reid, 5 Lopeti Timani, 4 Steve Cummins, 3 Laurie Weeks, 2 Pat Leafa, 1 Cruze Ah-Nau
Substitutes: 16 Jordan Uelese, 17 Tom Moloney, 18 Tyrel Lomax, 19 Culum Retallick, 20 Jake Schatz, 21 Ben Meehan, 22 Sione Tuipulotu, 23 Jonah Placid
15 Michael Collins, 14 Matt Duffie, 13 Rieko Ioane, 12 Piers Francis, 11 Melani Nanai, 10 Ihaia West, 9 Augustine Pulu, 8 Akira Ioane, 7 Blake Gibson, 6 Steven Luatua, 5 Gerard Cowley-Tuioti, 4 Jimmy Tupou (captain), 3 Sione Mafileo, 2 Matt Moulds, 1 Pauliasi Manu
Substitutes: 16 Hame Faiva, 17 Sam Prattley, 18 Charlie Faumuina, 19 Scott Scrafton, 20 Murphy Taramai, 21 Sam Nock, 22 George Moala, 23 Rene Ranger