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Super Rugby preview: Rebels host competition leaders Sharks at AAMI Park this Friday
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- Potent Blues outclass Reds
- Sharks nudge further ahead
- Crusaders cruise past Brumbies
- Chiefs return to the top
- Waratahs clinch Canes thriller
- Stormers claim first bonus win
- Bulls end losing streak
The Rebels host competition leaders Sharks at AAMI Park this Friday in the first game of the visitors' four-match Australasian tour.
The Sharks head to Melbourne on the back of just their second loss of the season last week, a shock 34-18 defeat against the Highlanders in Durban.
However, Rebels head coach Tony McGahan is focused more on his squad and how they approach this match having had a bye over the ANZAC Day weekend.
"We are ready for the challenges posed by the Sharks," he said.
"It's great to be through the first half of the season; the guys have been really keen and enthusiastic at training over the last few days to start the second half of the season, and most importantly this block now of five games which kicks off with playing the number one side in Super Rugby at this point in time. The guys are really looking forward to the challenge, and being back at home."
McGahan has injected Wallaby scrum-half Luke Burgess into the Rebels' starting lineup, believing his experience and physicality will be an asset against the competition leaders.
Burgess' introduction from the outset is one of only two changes to the side which beat the Western Force 22-16 two weeks ago, with prop Cruze Ah-Nau promoted to his first Super Rugby start as Toby Smith misses out with a shoulder injury.
"We're looking for a change in dynamics this weekend as we play the Sharks who have such a big physical pack," McGahan added.
"Luke has a strong kicking game from nine, and we'll need the physicality around the ruck and in attack and defence that Luke can certainly bring.
"Nic Stirzaker has done a fantastic job for us, starting the last five games, and there is a big difference between starting games and finishing games; there's a different skillset required. Nic has given us a great platform, and Luke has been terrific adding enthusiasm, speed and consistency when he has come on in the latter stages; Nic gets the opportunity to do that this week."
For the Sharks, head coach Jake White has named Frans Steyn at fly-half, replacing Tim Swiel, while Heimar Williams steps in at inside centre alongside Paul Jordaan for their tour opener.
In other changes to the side that started against the Highlanders last week, Jean Deysel and Bismarck du Plessis are back from niggles.
"We want to bounce back," explained White.
"It doesn't matter who it is, it's not the Rebels we're targeting. When we lost to the Bulls, we won the next game against the Waratahs. This week we need to make sure that regardless of who we're playing, we need to be better than we were last week to get a result.
"We must remember that although we beat them comfortably last year in Durban, we're playing them in Melbourne, they are a good team playing at home They've picked up some good wins this year, they beat the Brumbies in Melbourne.
"We want to get our tour off to a good start and take momentum through the tour and in order to do that we need to get a win in the first game."
You can see all the action from AAMI Park live on Sky Sports 2HD from 10.30am.
Rebels: 15 Woodward, 14 Sau, 13 Ellison, 12 Inman, 11 English, 10 Hegarty, 9 Burgess; 1 Ah-Nau, 2 Horie, 3 Weeks, 4 Neville, 5 Jones, 6 Fainga'a, 7 Fuglistaller, 8 Scott (c).
Replacements: 16 Leafa, 17 Lahiff,18 Alo-Emilie, 19 Pyle, 20 McMahon, 21 Stirzaker, 22 Kingston, 23 Roberts.
Sharks: 15 Mvovo, 14 Ndungane, 13 Jordaan, 12 Williams, 11 Pietersen, 10 Steyn, 9 McLeod; 1 Mtawarira, 2 B du Plessis (c), 3 J du Plessis, 4 Alberts, 5 Lewies, 6 Coetzee, 7 Deysel, 8 Kankowski.
Replacements: 16 Cooper, 17 Chadwick, 18 Adriaanse, 19 Oosthuizen, 20 Daniel, 21 Reinach, 22 Zeilinga, 23 Marais.
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