The Wallabies’ depth has been given a massive boost ahead of the Bledisloe Cup, with experienced playmaker Matt Toomua inking a two-and-a-half-year deal to return to Australian rugby.
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Melbourne Rebels are out to prove they’re far from a one-trick pony when they take on the Bulls in Pretoria without star halfback Will Genia.
The Rebels held a commanding lead over the Jaguares in their Super Rugby match last week with the Test No.9 setting up their two tries.
But they fell away when Genia left the field with the hamstring injury which has kept him from their South African tour.
Rebels and Wallabies utility back Reece Hodge, who missed the Jaguares’ loss with a hamstring injury, said it would be a big confidence boost for the team to prove they could win without Genia.
Michael Ruru will start at halfback while Australia under 20s halfback Harrison Goddard, who made his Super Rugby debut for the Rebels last season, will be on the bench.
“I think it’s important for the confidence of not only the rest of the team but also Mikey and Harrison,” Hodge said.
“We have full confidence that both of them can do that and it’s up to us to put the structures around them so they can excel on the field.
“There’s no hiding that not having Will is a loss.”
The Bulls had a slow start to the season but bounced back with a win over the Stormers, who the Rebels face in Cape Town next week, and a 40-10 demolition job on the Sharks.
Fullback Warrick Gelant scored a hat-trick in that match to press his claims for Springboks selection.
“He’s obviously an exciting player; we played them a couple of years ago and he was very dangerous then as well,” Hodge said.
“He’s certainly going to provide a threat for us, along with (Jesse) Kriel at outside centre but, in saying that, we’ve got some pretty dangerous outside backs as well, so it’s going to be an exciting match-up.”
Hodge likened the Bulls’ adventurous game under coach John Mitchell to that of the Sunwolves, who they beat in round two.
“We’ve had a dress rehearsal in how we want to go about containing them and hopefully we can,” he said.