Durban - Centre Sione Tuipulotu headlines a new look Melbourne Rebels team which will face the Sharks at Kings Park on Saturday.
Kick-off is at 17:15.
With a handful of regular Rebels rotated out of the match-day 23 this week, Victorian-born Tuipulotu will start and look to secure his 10th Rebels cap since signing with the franchise from rugby nursery St Kevin’s College.
Joining Tuipulotu in the match-day 23 this week is fellow Victorian Pone Fa’amausili, off-season recruit Campbell Magnay and scrumhalf Harrison Goddard.
Among the Rebels rested under the Wallabies rotation policy are Adam Coleman, Marika Koroibete, Isi Naisarani and Will Genia, while skipper Dane Haylett-Petty has been ruled out with a foot injury.
Wessels is adamant though that the negative of Haylett-Petty’s injury is outweighed by the positivity of Melbourne’s backline depth.
“Jack Maddocks has played a fair bit of 15 for us, so he’ll be comfortable there,” Wessels told the Rebels' official website.
“It’s a great opportunity for Sione Tuipulotu to come into the team, he did really well in the NRC and thoroughly deserves his chance, being one of the best trainers of the preseason prior to injuring his hamstring.”
“It’s also exciting to see Campbell Magnay’s first selection for the Rebels, because he’s 106kgs and he’s six-four (feet tall) ... but he’s a big part of our club ...so we’re excited to give him his first run on the weekend.”
Dane Haylett-Petty’s injury has resulted in Melbourne Rising Captain Angus Cottrell being elevated as on-field leader of the side.Wessels believes a number of senior players could have been given the role, however, the previous leadership positions Cottrell possessed made him an ideal candidate.
“There’s any number of guys in that group that could be captain,” Wessels said.
“One of the things we worked hard on the last couple of months is our leadership and development.
“We chose Gus because he’d done the job for us in the past during the NRC, so he’s probably a little bit more experienced.”
The men from Melbourne will look to bounce back from a tight loss to the Lions in Johannesburg last week as they face the Sharks who are coming off the bye.
Wessels acknowledged the focus this week has been to control momentum swings in the game which hurt the side dearly against the Lions.
“We had a really good half against the Lions, but then momentum got away from us and we didn’t control that well in the second half against them,” Wessels said.
“Our biggest challenge is to run our best race, because we want to be the best version of ourselves that we can be and we were for fifty minutes in Johannesburg, but we need to do that more consistently in Durban.”
15 Aphelele Fassi, 14 Sbu Nkosi, 13 Lukhanyo Am, 12 Andre Esterhuizen, 11 Makazole Mapimpi, 10 Robert du Preez, 9 Louis Schreuder (captain), 8 Daniel du Preez, 7 Jacques Vermeulen, 6 Phepsi Buthelezi, 5 Hyron Andrews, 4 Ruben van Heerden, 3 Coenie Oosthuizen, 2 Akker van der Merwe, 1 Tendai Mtawarira
Substitutes: 16 Craig Burden, 17 Juan Schoeman, 18 Thomas du Toit, 19 Gideon Koegelenberg, 20 Luke Stringer, 21 Grant Williams, 22 Marius Louw, 23. Curwin Bosch
15 Jack Maddocks, 14 Reece Hodge, 13 Sione Tuipulotu, 12 Billy Meakes, 11 Tom English, 10 Quade Cooper, 9 Michael Ruru, 8 Angus Cottrell, 7 Richard Hardwick, 6 Luke Jones, 5 Matt Phillip, 4 Ross Haylett-Petty, 3 Sam Talakai, 2 Anaru Rangi, 1 Matt Gibson
Substitutes: 16 Robbie Abel, 17 Tetera Faulkner, 18 Pone Fa’amausili, 19 Rob Leota, 20 Brad Wilkin, 21 Harrison Goddard, 22 Campbell Magnay, 23 TBC