Co-captains James Parsons and Jerome Kaino are both out of the Melbourne clash, along with Patrick Tuipulotu and Sonny Bill Williams.
He’s [Kaino] catching up with that but the professional he is and experience he has it won’t take him long.
Parsons is unavailable due to concussion symptoms, while All Blacks blindside flanker Kaino isn’t yet match fit after being given time off from training following the death of his friend Sione Lauaki.
Coach Tana Umaga said Kaino was further behind than the Auckland franchise would like.
“This is his second day back today and you could see he was struggling a little bit with the running,” he added. “He’s catching up with that but the professional he is and experience he has it won’t take him long.”
Otago utility Michael Collins has been named at fullback after impressing during pre-season, while Williams’ place at No.12 will go to Counties Manukau first five-eighth Piers Francis.
With Tuipulotu out, Gerard Cowley-Tuioti will partner Jimmy Tupou in the second row.
Umaga has named Charlie Faumuina, George Moala and Rene Ranger on the bench.
Openside Blake Gibson has recovered from a shoulder knock he picked up in the final pre-season game against the Chiefs to earn his place. Former Crusaders prop Alex Hodgman, though, suffered an ankle injury in training on Tuesday and has been replaced on the bench by Sam Pratley.
Umaga said: “The way we’re training and the things we’re getting out of these guys we’re very happy with where we’re at. The group are committed to starting well.
“They know there is a lot of competition and a lot of people coming back that have got some reputations so they want to stay where they are.”
Jackson Garden-Bachop will make his Super Rugby debut at first five-eighth for the Rebels.
But code-hopping outside back Marika Koroibete has been ruled out with a minor knee injury.