Melbourne Rebels skipper Nic Stirzaker is hoping to bank some more minutes against the Hurricanes on Friday night after his disrupted start to the Super Rugby season.
Leading into the year, the halfback had been tipped to join the Wallabies’ squad but his rivals were able to get the jump with his delayed return from shoulder surgery and then concussion in the Rebels’ win over the NSW Waratahs.
The Rebels enjoyed a bye following that breakthrough victory in Sydney with Stirzaker revealing he would have been sidelined had they not had the week off.
“It was perfect timing because, after the head knock, I wouldn’t have been able to play last week and also good timing for the group as I think a lot of the forwards are a bit banged up,” Stirzaker said.
“It was a big six weeks so it was good for them to get a rest and come in firing on Friday night.”
Against last year’s losing grand finalists, Stirzaker said the Rebels needed to bring the physicality they showed against NSW and treasure possession with the Hurricanes lethal with turnover ball.
Rebels coach Tony McGahan praised Stirzaker’s contribution before he was forced from the field against NSW and wanted to see more against the Hurricanes.
“That would be nice as he’s had a pretty limited season impact on what we’re doing on-field,” McGahan said.
“While he was on there, the side had some good continuity and a good understanding about what we’re trying to do.”
McGahan was pleased the Rebels finished their opening six matches with a four-two win-loss record. They lead the Australian conference alongside the heavyweight Brumbies, who face the Waratahs this round.
“Considering the obstacles that we faced with a heavily disrupted pre-season, and then injuries before the first three games, playing the Highlanders and the Waratahs at the back end … I think to get four and two is great,” McGahan said.
“We know that the challenges ahead of us are way bigger and way tougher starting this weekend.”
The Rebels named an unchanged line-up however centre Mitch Inman didn’t train with the main group at their final session, with Sione Tuipulotut running at 12.
Veteran centre Tamati Ellison also didn’t train but was a certainty to play.