The Melbourne Rebels are desperate to upset the Cheetahs and open their Super Rugby season with a win after strong pre-season form.
The Melbourne Rebels are ready to deliver the second upset of the Super Rugby season to the Cheetahs when they meet at AAMI Park on Friday night.
The Cheetahs were surprised by the newly-promoted Lions in their round one game and the Rebels, playing their first match after an opening bye, are hoping to similarly ambush the visitors.
With a new coach in Tony McGahan and eight new faces in the 23-man squad, Melbourne are in good form heading into the match after winning each of their three pre-season encounters.
Skipper Scott Higginbotham said they couldn’t be better prepared.
“All the boys are chomping at the bit to get out there,” he said.
“I wouldn’t say we’ve kept anything up our sleeves but we’ve had two weeks to prepare for this game so we’ve had a bit of stuff to work on.”
The Rebels, who finished 12th last season, have never beaten the Cheetahs, who made the finals.
McGahan named his line-up on Thursday which included teenager Sean McMahon at blindside flanker in his Super debut.
The 19-year-old McMahon, Australia’s youngest-ever Sevens representative, has played only a handful of 15-a-side games in the past two years but impressed McGahan and his teammates with his potential in the pre-season.
Halfback Ben Meehan and England-raised prop Max Lahiff, named on the bench, are also primed for their first Super matches.
With the departure of Wallabies Kurtley Beale, James O’Connor and Nick Phipps, there is a new-look backline led by fresh halves combination Luke Burgess and Bryce Hegarty.
Mitch Inman has moved to inside centre with former All Black Tamati Ellison at 13.
While 21-year-old Hegarty might not have the swagger and star power of Beale or O’Connor Inman said he had plenty to offer.
“Bryce has got great nerve for a young player,” Inman said.
“Luke (Burgess) brings a lot of experience to our backline and he’s very unselfish with his knowledge and I’m looking forward to running off those two.”
Inman, who has Wallabies aspirations this year, said McGahan set him the challenge early in the pre-season of playing at 12 and he was starting to feel at home.
“I was quite surprised at first but I’m really starting to be comfortable.
“We’ve got some fast pace outside so it’s a good balance in the backline.”
Melbourne Rebels: Jason Woodward, Lachlan Mitchell, Tamati Ellison, Mitch Inman, Tom English, Bryce Hegarty, Luke Burgess, Scott Higginbotham (capt), Scott Fuglistaller, Sean McMahon, Luke Jones, Hugh Pyle, Laurie Weeks, Pat Leafa, Toby Smith: Res: Steve Fualau, Max Lahiff, Paul Alo-Emile, Cadeyrn Neville, Colby Fainga’a, Ben Meehan, Angus Roberts, Tom Kingston.