Melbourne say New Zealand’s deep talent pool means the injury-hit Chiefs will lose little when they square off in their Super Rugby clash on Saturday night.
The Chiefs have lost reigning IRB world player of the year Brodie Retallick for a month with a shoulder injury, joining fellow All Black Aaron Cruden (knee) on the sidelines ahead of their AAMI Park clash.
Retallick’s place in the second row has been taken by Michael Fitzgerald while Andrew Horrell replaces Marty McKenzie to get the next crack at No.10 in Cruden’s absence.
Chiefs skipper Liam Messam also returns as blindside flanker after a week off under the All Blacks’ rest program in one of six changes to their starting line-up.
Melbourne halfback Nic Stirzaker says it won’t change his team’s approach to the Chiefs, who are on a four-game winning streak.
“The nature of New Zealand rugby is that its depth is amazing,” he said.
“You lose guys like that and they tend to bring other guys in who are just as good so for us nothing really changes.”
Stirzaker held his own in recent weeks against the Brumbies and Waratahs, last round lining up against Wallabies halfback Nick Phipps.
While happy with his showing, he said the two-point loss to the defending champions took the gloss off.
“We were the better team for 60 minutes but we were the far worse team for 20 minutes and that ended up counting more,” Stirzaker said.
The 23-year-old gets a chance to measure himself against another rising No.9 in Brad Weber, who he crossed paths with when he played a season in the ITM Cup with Manawatu in 2013.
Weber will make his third consecutive start, with Stirzaker aware of his strengths.
“Weber was playing for Waikato when I was in New Zealand,” he said.
“He’s a great young player; really sharp and quick which is exactly the type of game they’re going to try and play.”
The Rebels have never beaten the Chiefs but this season have ticked off a number of firsts.