Rebels make four changes for Highlanders match

Rebels head coach Tony McGahan has made four changes to the starting line up that beat the Brumbies last week for this weekend’s Super Rugby match against the Highlanders at Forsyth Barr Stadium in Dunedin, New Zealand.

Two of the four changes to the Rebels line up are injury enforced changes and Colby Fainga’a did not recover from a hip injury and has been replaced in the back row by Sean McMahon.

Tom Kingston continues to follow concussion protocols and has not beed considered for selection this week.

Japanese International Male Sau replaces Kingston on the right wing, with Jordy Reid and Alex Rokobaro injected into the matchday squad as reserves for the first time in 2014.

In the two other changes, Shota Horie is named for his first start of the season with Pat Leafa reverted to the reserves bench, while prop Toby Smith returns from a head knock to start in the front row, with Max Lahiff dropping out of the squad.

Whilst disappointed to lose Kingston and Fainga’a, McGahan is confident that their replacements are more than adequate following impressive performances off the bench against the Brumbies.

“Colby pulled up a bit sore, and misses out after doing a fantastic job as expected last week,” McGahan said.

“It’s a week only, we hope, and both he and Tom Kingston are in contention to return against the Chiefs on Saturday April 12.

“Sean McMahon has played some really good Rugby for us so far this year, especially for a guy who hadn’t played any professional 15’s and only limited club Rugby. He’s adjusted and fitted in well, and we look forward to having him back.

“We slowly embedded Male after he arrived from Japan struggling a little bit with injury, and getting used to training and the team. He’s gathering knowledge and combinations and we thought he was terrific against the Brumbies; Male fits seamlessly into the side.”

Smith returns to New Zealand for the first time since joining the Rebels from the Chiefs following the 2013 Super Rugby season, and his 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.

“Shota Horie has been with us four or five weeks and has now embedded himself in the program. He has been great off the bench in the last few games, and Pat Leafa has had a big workload in starting all five Super Rugby matches back to back after just one appearance off the bench in the 2013 competition.”

With nine players ruled out due to injury at this point in time, McGahan has faith that the whole squad are capable of making an impact when called upon.

“We do have a long injury list, however every member in the squad needs to play their role and we are confident that they are able to do so. They know when it comes they need to take their opportunity, and this week both Jordy Reid and Alex Rokobaro get their opportunity.”

Foundation Rebel Hugh Pyle announced to his teammates earlier this week that he will depart the Club and head to Europe at year’s end, however McGahan doesn’t foresee the lock’s decision being a distraction or affecting either his or his teammates’ ability to secure a first win across the Tasman.

“Hugh’s decision won’t influence the performance. We were all disappointed with the decision, because we love having him here, but we understand his dream to play professional Rugby in Europe.

“We’ll lose players based on our decisions this year, and he made his decision, and we respect that. Hugh has played a huge part in the beginning of the Club and with the Club moving forward over the four seasons and will be sorely missed, however he’ll con

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