The Western Force will have to go a hunting this weekend to kill off the Cheetahs newly acquired taste for big game.
The Cheetahs did over a less than focussed Auckland Blues side last weekend and will be licking their lips at the prospect of some more easy meat. They’ve only won three games this year but they were against allegedly superior sides including the Hurricanes and Sharks, and a surprise draw against the Chiefs.
The Force will need to play downwind of their prey and stalk them until they’re within striking range to ensure a clean hit. To do that they’ll need to execute better than they did last week against the Lions where a number of scoring opportunities went begging.
Since most of their injured players have returned, the Force have won four out of the last five games including against top four aspirants the Stormers and the Crusaders.
They’ll just need to play their natural game on Saturday. If they can do that they’ll be able to dominate the breakdown and close-in defence with their international loosies and have Sharpie and co running the fringes of the ruck.
With David Hill’s confident kicking game and distribution perhaps JO’C, Cam Shepherd (if he lasts the warm-up) and Mitch Inman can make some serious inroads.
Last week the Cheetahs won their game despite the Blues having a surfeit of possession. They did this by hustling and bustling them into mistakes and upping their defensive commitment.
They’re a different side at home and with Juan Smith back on deck as Kaptein. He’d been out for quite a few games due to the illness and subsequent passing of his father.
In the stats analysis against the Blues Smith topped the tackle count, runs made and ruck/maul involvements for both sides.
There are seven changes to the Force starting XV including a completely revamped front row.
“We planned before we came away that everyone who was on the tour would be contributing,” coach John Mitchell said.
“We wanted to give everyone a run and apart from the injury to Scott Staniforth everything is going to plan”.
Nick Henderson returns to loosehead, Tim Fairbrother to tighthead after recovering from an ankle injury while Nathan Charles, who’s signing of a two-year contract to the Force was announced today, earns his second start at hooker.
Tom Hockings is the new partner for Nathan Sharpe in lock musical chairs.
Justin Turner, who was this week selected in the Australian U20’s team to play at the Junior World Cup, will start his first match of the season at halfback.
Tucky Dunning will bring up his 100th Super rugby match if he gets off the bench. Let’s hope so as he had his best outing for yonks last weekend.
The Cheetahs have surprised by including midfielder Corné Uys at wing with Springbok winger Jongi Nokwe out with a broken jaw. Uys is a known defender and not noted for his speed. Perhaps he’s the Cheetahs’ ‘Tom Carter?’
Robert Ebersohn put his hand up against the Blues and retains the number 13 jersey, while young Sevens Springbok Phillip van der Walt gets his first start at No 8 after Frans Viljoen was forced out with a broken arm (after just returning from a broken cheekbone).
Viljoen’s physicality will be badly missed – he had a big game against the Blues.
The ‘Blond Bombshell’ Kabamba Floors is still on suspension and Davon Raubenheimer has a shoulder niggle and will start off the bench.
The Force have an impressive record against the Cheetahs, winning all four clashes between the sides, but know they’ll face a tough challenge on Saturday night.
It could set-up an opportunity to secure three consecutive wins in the Super 14 competition, a feat achieved only once before in their club history.
Lance says: “Force by 8”.
Western Force: 1 Nick Henderson, 2 Nathan Charles, 3 Tim Fairbrother, 4 Tom Hockings, 5 Nathan Sharpe, 6 Matt Hodgson, 7 David Pocock, 8 Richard Brown, 9 Justin Turner, 10 David Hill, 11 Cameron Shepherd, 12 Ryan Cross, 13 Mitch Inman, 14 Nick Cummins, 15 James O’Connor. Reserves: 16 Ben Whittaker, 17 Matt Dunning, 18 Sam Wykes, 19 Ben McCalman, 20 Chris O’Young, 21 Sam Harris, 22 Mark Bartholomeusz.
Cheetahs: 15 Hennie Daniller, 14 Bjorn Basson, 13 Robert Ebersohn, 12 Meyer Bosman, 11 Corné Uys, 10 Naas Olivier, 9 Sarel Pretorius, 8 Philip van der Walt, 7 Juan Smith (captain), 6 Hendro Scholtz, 5 Barend Pieterse, 4 Izak van der Westhuizen, 3 WP Nel, 2 Skipper Badenhorst, 1 Wian du Preez. Reserves: 16 Ryno Barnes, 17 Coenie Oosthuizen, 18 Waltie Vermeulen, 19 Davon Raubenheimer, 20 Marnus Hugo, 21 Danwel Demas, 22 Riaan Viljoen.
Saturday, 8 May 2010 at Vodacom Park, Bloemfontein
Kick-off: 5.05pm (SAST) / 11.05pm (AWST)
Referee: Craig Joubert