Rebels Depth To Be Tested

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The Rebels  will be bidding for just their third win of the season when they tackle the Stormers  at AAMI Park on Friday night, with several of their first choice XV unavailable for selection. Kurtley Beale remains unavailable after being suspended indefinitely for breaching behavioural guidelines set down by the club, while Wallabies star James O’Connor has joined him on the sidelines after damaging his sternoclavicular joint in Melbourne’s 36-32 loss to the Blues at Eden Park last week. His replacement, Angus Roberts, has also been ruled out after dislocating his shoulder in the match meaning that the Rebels halves will field two debutants in the halves, with Nic Stirzaker and Bryce Hegarty in the run on side for the first time.

Although they have won just four matches this season, the Stormers still have a chance of reaching the finals but really must beat the Rebels to do so after suffering a 21-15 defeat to the Waratahs in week 13.

Melbourne may have lost four matches on the trot but its biggest margin of defeat in that period is six points, having matched it with the Blues, Crusaders and Chiefs for long periods before eventually being outclassed. Without the experienced heads of Beale and O’Connor, coupled with the fact that Nick Phipps will start on the bench, the young Rebels are unlikely to have the game smarts to finish their South African rivals off, even if they can get in a winning position. When these teams met last year, the Stormers were five point winners  in Cape Town.

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