Melbourne Rebel Colby Fainga’a has a point to prove when he comes up against his former Brumbies teammates in their Super Rugby clash on Friday night.
But the point isn’t to the Brumbies but rather to the Rebels, with Fainga’a hoping to prove his value as a starting player in the AAMI Park match.
The 22-year-old has replaced blindside flanker Sean McMahon in the line-up, while former Wallaby halfback Luke Burgess has been axed among the six changes.
Nic Stirzaker replaces Burgess after recovering from an ankle problem, with coach Tony McGahan seeking fresh attacking impetus for his struggling side against a Brumbies side sitting atop the Australian conference.
“I’m just trying to play good rugby and I’ve been in and out of the starting team,” Fainga’a said.
“I’m not trying to prove anything to the Brumbies, I’m trying to prove my worth to the Rebels and keep my spot.”
Fainga’a, the younger brother of Reds and Wallabies twins Saia and Anthony, said he couldn’t see a huge difference in the Brumbies’ play since the departure of coach Jake White.
“Their core skills are still very similar; they’re just a clinical team who get all the basics right.
“Very good at the breakdown and set piece and they thrive off that.”
The Rebels are looking to end a run of three losses, with skipper Scott Higginbotham saying his team knew they could do better.
“They were games lost off our mistakes; a lot of penalties and a lapse in turnover defence from us and you give quick ball-running backs a bit of space and they make you pay for it.
“It’s still only round five so there’s a long way to go.”
Higginbotham said Burgess had carried a heavy workload so far and felt Stirzaker would bring some energy into the team.
“He’s excited to get his opportunity and I think he will bring a lot of upbeat rugby on to the pitch,” he said.
The Rebels were stung by the Waratahs strike-power and know they will have their hands full with a star-studded Brumbies backline that has no room for Wallabies centre Christian Lealiifano.
“They’ve got a lot of Wallabies in their mix and you can’t single out anyone,” Higginbotham said.
“You’ve got to beat them as a team, with your team doing their job.”
Rebels: Jason Woodward, Tom Kingston, Tamati Ellison, Mitch Inman, Tom English, Bryce Hegarty, Nic Stirzaker, Scott Higginbotham, Scott Fuglistaller, Colby Fainga’a, Luke Jones, Hugh Pyle, Laurie Weeks, Pat Leafa, Max Lahiff. Res: Shota Horie, Paul Alo-Emilie, Cruze Ah-Nau, Cadeyrn Neville, Sean McMahon, Luke Burgess, Male Sa’u, Angus Roberts.