Super Rugby preview: Highlanders host Melbourne Rebels at Forsyth Barr Stadium
Last Updated: 04/04/14 7:58am
Melbourne Rebels will look to build on their victory over the Brumbies on Friday as they travel to the Forsyth Barr Stadium to take on the Highlanders.
Tony McGahan's side recorded a shock 32-24 victory to buck the Brumbies run of four successive wins.
Full-back Jason Woodward and centre Mitch Inman touched down as the Rebels took advantage of a sloppy 10-minute spell by their Australian rivals to race home.
McGahan has made four changes to his starting line-up for this game, including two injury enforced switches.
Colby Fainga'a has failed to recover from a hip injury and will be replaced in the back row by Sean McMahon, while Tom Kingston will not be considered for selection this week following concussion, with Japanese International Male Sau replacing him on the right wing.
Jordy Reid and Alex Rokobaro come into the matchday squad as reserves for the first time in 2014, Shota Horie is named for his first start of the season, with Pat Leafa reverting to the reserves bench.
Max Lahiff drops out of the squad as prop Toby Smith returns from a head knock to start in the front row. He returns to New Zealand for the first time since joining the Rebels from the Chiefs following the 2013 Super Rugby season, and McGahan admits Smith's knowledge of the opposition will play a big part in the Rebels' preparation for the match.
"We missed Toby for bits and pieces last week, but the four props did their job really well," McGahan said. "Toby brings a lot of experience against New Zealand sides and is right at home playing over there, and we are looking for his insight and mental attitude to provide a strong base for us going forward on Friday."
Meanwhile, the Highlanders come into Round 8 on the back of a 30-12 defeat to Sir John Kirwan's Blues.
George Moala and Charles Piutau scored inside the opening 10 minutes of each half and Ma'a Nonu also touched down as the Blues raced to a comfortable victory in Auckland, while the Highlanders only points came via the boot of Lima Sopoaga as they failed to cross the whitewash.
Jamie Joseph has named five changes to the side that suffered defeat at the hands of the Blues in Auckland in Round 7.
Shaun Treeby comes in to replace the injured Phil Burleigh at inside centre, while Kurt Baker takes Patrick Osborne's berth on the left wing in the only other change to the starting XV.
Up front, in-form loosehead prop Kane Hames is unavailable as he serves a one-week suspension leaving Chris King to deputise, while Ma'afu Fia is named at tighthead.
Gareth Evans returns to the starting line-up at blindside flanker at the expense of Elliot Dixon who moves to the reserves, while Aaron Smith is set to make his 50th appearance in Highlanders colours.
Highlanders: 15 B Smith (c), 14 Buckman, 13 Fekitoa, 12 Treeby, 11 Baker, 10 Sopoaga, 9 A Smith; 1 King, 2 Coltman, 3 Fia, 4 Hoeata, 5 Wheeler, 6 Evans, 7 Christie, 8 Manu
Replacements: 16 Robinson, 17 Millar, 18 Diaz, 19 Behuis, 20 Dixon, 21 Tanaka, 22 Renata, 23 Ioane.
Rebels: 15 Woodward, 14 Sau, 13 Ellison, 12 Inman, 11 English, 10 Hegarty, 9 Stirzaker; 1 Smith, 2 Horie, 3 Weeks, 4 Pyle, 5 Jones, 6 McMahon, 7 Fuglistaller, 8 Higginbotham (c).
Replacements: 16 Leafa, 17 Alo-Emilie, 18 Ah-Nau, 19 Neville, 20 Reid, 21 Burgess, 22 Roberts, 23 Rokobaro.
You can see all the action from the Forsyth Barr Stadium as the Highlanders take on Melbourne Rebels live on Sky Sports 3HD from 7:35am.