Rebels captain Nic Stirzaker is hoping to reignite his developing partnership with Jack Debreczeni, after a frustrating start to the year.
Stirzaker’s return from a shoulder reconstruction has been a slow and unpredictable one.
Though initially hopeful of returning in round one, Stirzaker admitted there were points where he wasn’t sure when he would come back at all.
"It was really frustrating," he said.
"It got to a point there where we didn’t really know where it was at and I turned a corner that Reds week so that was really good and a bit of a weight off the shoulders."
After two cameos in the past fortnight, the 24-year-old will finally be able to lead out Melbourne side for the first time since being appointed its youngest captain.
That record was superseded by 21-year-old Sean McMahon, who has been acting captain so far this year, before the scrumhalf even had a chance to hold it.
While he was waiting to return, his understudy Ben Meehan was a standout but Stirzaker said he wasn’t preoccupied by the newly hot competition for his spot.
“He was playing well but I was just focused on getting back,” he said.
“It’s great for the team and it just shows what depth we’ve built here, there’s so much competition for positions.”
Stirzaker said he hoped to pick up where he left off with halves partner Jack Debreczeni on Sunday.
“Hopefully he’s happy (I’m back),” he said.
“I’m happy to be back out there with him so hopefully we can discover a bit of the form from last year.”
As for the Waratah matches, Stirzaker said it would hold significance for a number of reasons.
“I think all the Australian conference games carry a little bit extra because of the nature of the way the finals system is structured,” he said.
“So I think it’s a big game for us, not only with the Australian conference, (but) with our win-loss record in the season and going into a bye.
“There’s a whole host of reasons but I guess we’re just trying to have a pretty narrow focus on bouncing back from last weekend, playing our best football and hopefully that will be enough.”
It will be a familiar environment for NSW junior Stirzaker as he returns home for the match and hopes that a band of family and friends will be barracking for him rather than the home side.
The Rebels face the Waratahs at Allianz Stadium on Sunday, kicking off at 4:05pm AEST.