Abrasive lock Jacques Potgieter returns to the tight five, whilst Alofa Alofa is named to start on the wing.
Despite stringing together back-to-back victories in the last two rounds, getting a win in Melbourne won’t be easy, says Waratahs defensive coach Nathan Grey, who spent three years on the Rebels’ coaching staff before joining NSW this season.
“They are always tough to beat at home and they’ll have a lot of confidence, highlighted by their first away win over the Reds,” said Grey.
“Plus in their last home game against the competition-leading Sharks, they put themselves in a position to win. They’ve got good support and they’ll have the crowd screaming for them.”
Coach Michael Cheika has named crowd favourite Jacques Potgieter to start at lock, forcing 22-year-old Will Skelton to the bench despite his standout 80-minute performance against the Lions. After an outstanding display off the bench last week, when he replaced Dave Dennis, the powerful South African will partner the Leinster-bound Kane Douglas in the second row.
The front row remains intact, meaning that loosehead prop Benn Robinson will become NSW’s equal most-capped Super Rugby player (121) alongside Al Baxter when he runs out against the Rebels. Only Phil Waugh has played more Super games, with a record tally of 132.
Hooker Tatafu Polota Nau will also go down in the history books on Friday, when he becomes NSW’s fifth most capped player of all time (surpassing Matt Burke on 115). Completing the front row is tighthead Paddy Ryan.
The backrow consists of Michael Hooper at openside flanker, skipper Dave Dennis on the blindside and the in-form Wycliff Palu at No. 8.
In the halves, Nick Phipps will partner Bernard Foley, who needs just two points to become the Tahs’ sixth highest Super Rugby points’ scorer.
The dynamic duo of Kurtley Beale and Adam Ashley-Cooper forms the centre partnership, whilst Rob Horne has made the left wing his own, following his two-try effort against the Lions.
On the right wing, Matt Carraro makes way for Alofa Alofa, with the man known as bread back to full fitness after a knee injury.
Eager to get back on the try-scorers list, Israel Folau will again wear the number 15 jumper.
The Waratahs have won six of their seven past encounters against the Rebels, with the only one going against them being the second of the teams’ two encounters in 2013.
Winning on the road has been a battle the season, with the Waratahs only away win of 2014 coming in South Africa. But with the finals in sight and the Weary Dunlop Shield up for grabs, putting together three back-to-back wins for the first time this season would be the perfect tonic for a Waratahs outfit aiming for a top-two finish.
Cheika has named a 10-man bench, with two to be omitted closer to kick-off.
1. Benn Robinson , 2.Tatafu Polota Nau , 3. Paddy Ryan , 4. Jacques Potgieter , 5. Kane Douglas , 6. Dave Dennis (c), 7. Michael Hooper , 8. Wycliff Palu , 9. Nick Phipps , 10. Bernard Foley , 11. Rob Horne , 12. Kurtley Beale , 13. Adam Ashley-Cooper 14. Alofa Alofa , 15 Israel Folau .
Replacements (two to be omitted): 16. Hugh Roach , 17. Jeremy Tilse , 18. Sekope Kepu , 19. Will Skelton , 20. Stephen Hoiles, 21. Brendan McKibbin , 22. Jono Lance , 23. Matt Carraro , 24. Pat McCutcheon 25.Taqele Naiyaravoro