Super Rugby preview: Brumbies host Melbourne Rebels at Canberra Stadium
Last Updated: 31/05/14 1:17pm
Brumbies will aim to force their way into Super Rugby play-off contention when they host the Rebels at the Canberra Stadium on Saturday.
There are just four points separating the seventh-placed Brumbies from the Waratahs in second as the battle for play-off places intensifies, with just four rounds left to play.
Both sides come into the weekend on the back of defeats and Brumbies head coach Laurie Fisher will be desperate to see his side return to the top six after successive losses.
The Brumbies' two-match tour of South Africa ended winless after their 44-23 reverse to the Bulls in Pretoria last weekend, while the Rebels conceded six tries in a 41-19 defeat the Waratahs in an all-Australian affair.
Despite outscoring the Rebels three tries to two in the reverse fixture, it was the Melbourne franchise that prevailed in the return fixture, courtesy of 22 points from the boot of Jason Woodward in a 32-24 victory.
Following a pair of defeats, Fisher has called upon the services of veteran backs Pat McCabe and Clyde Rathbone for their return to Canberra.
McCabe comes in at full-back with Jesse Mogg dropping down to the bench, while Rathbone appears on the left wing in place of Robbie Coleman for his first appearance of the season.
The other change sees Ruan Smith win a spot at tighthead prop ahead of Wallaby international Ben Alexander, after impressing off the bench.
Meanwhile, Melbourne Rebels also bring in experienced duo Tamati Ellison and Laurie Weeks for the trip to the Australian capital.
Weeks will bring up his 50th Rebels cap, just the third player in the club's short history to achieve the feat, replacing Paul Alo-Emile in the starting front row.
Prop Weeks returns after a one-week absence from an ankle injury, while Ellison has recovered from a minor knee knock suffered in training last week.
"It's great for Laurie, he's a great leader and it's good for a young club like ours to be achieving these types of milestones," said Rebels assistant coach Sean Hedger.
"A lot of people describe us as a good, young bunch of players, but we also need guys with a bit more experience to reach these milestones."
Japanese international duo Shota Horie and Male Sau are also back after securing 2015 Rugby World Cup qualification, with Sau picked to start and Horie to provide hooker cover for Pat Leafa from the bench.
Brumbies: 15 McCabe, 14 Speight, 13 Kuridrani, 12 Lealiifano, 11 Rathbone, 10 Toomua, 9 White; 1 Sio, 2 Moore, 3 R Smith, 4 Carter, 5 Fardy, 6 Auelua, 7 Butler, 8 Mowen (capt).
Replacements: 16 Mann-Rea, 17 JP Smith, 18 Alexander, 19 Power, 20 Smiler, 21 Dowsett, 22 A Smith, 23 Mogg.
Rebels: 15 Woodward, 14 Sau, 13 Ellison, 12 Inman, 11 English, 10 Hegarty, 9 Meehan; 1 Smith, 2 Leafa, 3 Weeks, 4 Neville, 5 Jones, 6 Fainga'a, 7 Fuglistaller, 8 Higginbotham (capt).
Replacements: 16 Shota Horie, 17 Cruze Ah-Nau, 18 Paul Alo-Emile, 19 Hugh Pyle, 20 Jordy Reid, 21 Josh Holmes, 22 Jack Debreczeni, 23 Tom Kingston
You can watch Brumbies v Melbourne Rebels live from 10:30am on Sky Sports 4HD
Super Rugby 2014 Round 16
A last-second drop-goal from Jaco Taute helped the Stormers to a 21-19 win over the table-topping Sharks in Durban.
The Bulls' play-off hopes took a knock when they suffered a 32-21 loss to the Lions in Johannesburg on Saturday.
The Waratahs won their fourth straight Super Rugby match with a 33-17 victory over the champions, Waikato Chiefs.