“For our game the only time this change will make a difference is at scrum time – the roles otherwise pretty similar,” Wessels said.
“Luke will still have a pretty important role at lineout time as he has been instrumental there.
“With Ross, he is 120-kilograms so he adds some weight into our second row and Jonesy has played a lot of No. 6 [breakaway] in his career. It gives us options at lineout and he has a real work ethic in the back row.”
Angus Cottrell and Matt Philip will both come off the bench and add bite to those lock and breakaway roles.
Wessels said Philip ran well at training after spending three days in hospital over the weekend due to an infection from a cut in his foot.
“Matty’s foot has settled down a lot and he ran on Wednesday and looked pretty comfortable,” Wessels said.
“I was pretty surprised at how it has heeled. It probably wasn’t fair to Matty to put him straight back into the team given he was in hospital early in the week. But he’s fine and good to go.”
Wallabies winger Marika Koroibete has moved to the bench to make way for Hodge, but Wessels said that move was tactical rather than form based as Hodge’s long kicking game could make a difference at altitude in Johannesburg.
“The Brumbies game was one of the better ones I’ve seen Marika play,” Wessels said.
“We have a run of eight games and we are trying to make sure everyone takes the field fresh. Also Hodgy brings a kicking game at altitude which could be valuable.”
The Rebels had 12 senior players arrive late on Tuesday night after they attended a Wallabies camp over the weekend, but Wessels said the split was a nice change-up for the group and forced the team to prepare for efficiently.
The Rebels play the Lions in Johannesburg on Sunday at 12.05am (AEDT).
Rebels side to face the Lions: 1. Tetera Faulkner, 2. Anaru Rangi, 3. Sam Talakai, 4. Ross Haylett-Petty, 5. Adam Coleman, 6. Luke Jones, 7. Brad Wilkin, 8. Isi Naisarani, 9. Will Genia, 10. Quade Cooper, 11. Reece Hodge, 12. Billy Meakes, 13. Tom English, 14. Jack Maddocks, 15. Dane Haylett-Petty. Reserves: 16. Robbie Abel, 17. Matt Gibbon, 18. Jermaine Ainsley, 19. Matt Philip, 20. Angus Cottrell, 21. Michael Ruru, 22. Sione Tuipulotu, 23. Marika Koroibete.
Roy Ward is a Sports writer for The Age.