After their best start to a Super Rugby season, the Melbourne Rebels have received a further boost with flanker Colby Fainga'a set to return from injury against the Cheetahs at AAMI Park tonight.
Fainga'a will make his return via the reserves bench after being sidelined by an elbow injury since the Rebels' opening- round victory over the Force in Perth.
Coach Tony McGahan has made four changes to the run-on side that lost 38-13 to the Hurricanes last weekend.
Prop Toby Smith returns from a concussion suffered against the Waratahs in Melbourne's 21-17 win on April 3.
Jonah Placid has been named at fullback for the first time since the 27-3 loss to the Highlanders in round five. Reece Hodge will make his first start at outside centre, with all four of his Super Rugby appearances coming at fullback.
And Sefa Naivalu, who got through his first full game since returning from a broken leg last year, swaps wings with Cam Crawford.
Home-grown Victorian centre Sione Tuipulotu, last week named in the Australian Under-20 squad, and Japanese international Kotaro Matsushima have been recalled to the team, with the pair to start on the reserve bench against the Cheetahs, who thrashed the Sunwolves 92-17 last weekend.
With Dom Shipperley and Mitch Inman unavailable for selection due to injury, the Rebels, who have beaten the Cheetahs just once in their previous four meetings, were forced to make some of the changes.
Meanwhile, the Highlanders will welcome back co-captain and fullback Ben Smith (concussion) after a bye for tonight's clash against the Sharks in Dunedin. Ash Dixon comes in at hooker, and Josh Hohneck and Tom Franklin return to the starting line-up, while blindside flanker Elliot Dixon has recovered from a head cut.
Round nine draw (home teams first): Highlanders v Sharks, Rebels v Cheetahs, Sunwolves v Jaguares, Hurricanes v Chiefs, Western Force v Waratahs, Stormers v Reds, Southern Kings v Lions, Brumbies v Crusaders.