Fresh from a bye, the Force will be looking to notch their first victory at home on Saturday night when they take on the Cheetahs – still smarting from a 20-3 rout at the hands of the Brumbies.
The 13th placed Force had a bye last week after a disappointing tour of South Africa. With only one win from seven, the Force will be desperate to kick start their season after losing six games on the trot.
The Cheetahs, meanwhile, occupy one spot above the men from Perth. They have two wins from seven, and come into the game off the back of losses to the Crusaders, Chiefs, and Brumbies. They, like the Force, will be keen to get a win at all cost, and avoid dropping further down the log.
Head to head, the Force are 5-3 against the Cheetahs. The last time they met, the Force triumphed 16-23 away in 2014.
The Force has made few changes to their starting lineup. Morahan moves from fullback to the wing, and Haylett-Petty starts at 15. Alcock comes on to the bench for Steenkamp, and Brache is demoted to the bench as a result of the subsequent back three shuffle.
The Cheetahs has largely opted for stability in selection, tinkering very little with their team. The only changes: Uys starts in place of Mienie, and Pretorius comes back into the first XV – relegating Meyer to the bench.
The Key Players
Watch out for the backrowers on the weekend. Brussow has shown in the last few games why he is one of the premier South African opensides, starring in the loss against the Chiefs. The ex-sevens Blitzbokke, Boom Prinsloo, is a noted ball carrier for the Cheetahs so will need to be marked keenly. ‘Redfoo’ lookalike Britz rounds out the Cheetahs trio.
For the Force, Mafi has been a barnstorming presence in general play this year. If the Force get front-foot ball and the ruck pillars are napping, expect Mafi to pick-and-go and gallop upfield. McCalman, despite mixed form recently, has improved markedly after playing under Cheika for the Wallabies in 2014. He is trucking the ball up even more this year, and with added vigour. The youngster Koteka has stepped up to the next level with aplomb, and shown no inkling of the fact that he is the Force’s third-choice openside.
Unheralded Cheetahs players Francois Venter and Johann Sadie will likely feature predominately if the forecast for rain is anything to go by. Venter, especially, has been a stalwart at 12. With three tries this season, he is certainly an attacking threat. But his work in defence ought to be highlighted as well. Venter and Sadie outside him at 13 are the lynchpins in midfield, providing much needed stability in the backline.
If ever there was a game to find form for Sias Ebersohn, it is against his former team. Last year in the same corresponding fixture, he had a blinder, and Foley will be hoping for the same come Saturday night. Ebersohn needs to assert himself in attack and bring his backs into the game, rather than resorting to his default option: kick. Most all of all he needs to marshal his team and provide direction.
Willie Le Roux has been hit and miss for the Cheetahs in 2015, and prone to moments of ill-discipline. But when he is on, he is everywhere on attack – chiming in at first receiver and combining with his outside backs. The Force will need to contain him for the full 80.
Willie le Roux – looms as a danger man
Both teams are desperate to get a win at this point in the season. The Force will want to mark their 10th season anniversary match with a win, while the Cheetahs will want to finish their Australasian tour on a high.
Because of the likely wet weather which will stifle the Cheetahs more than the Force, the home ground advantage, and the fact the Force are fresh off a bye – and the Cheetahs likely with one foot on the plane home after accruing a fair amount of frequent flyer points – I expect the Force to edge the Cheetahs by a penalty or two.
Force by 4.
Force v Cheetahs
Force v Cheetahs
Pekahou Cowan 1 BG Uys
Nathan Charles 2 Torsten van Jaarsveld
Tetera Faulkner 3 Coenie Oosthuizen
Sam Wykes 4 Carl Wegner
Adam Coleman 5 Francois Uys (c)
Steve Mafi 6 Heinrich Brussow
Kane Koteka 7 Boom Prinsloo
Ben McCalman 8 Willie Britz
Alby Mathewson 9 Sarel Pretorius
Sias Ebersohn 10 Joe Pietersen
Nick Cummins 11 Raymond Rhule
Luke Burton 12 Francois Venter
Kyle Godwin 13 Johann Sadie
Luke Morahan 14 Cornal Hendricks
Dane Haylett-Petty 15 Willie le Roux
Reserves Heath Tessmann 16 Stephan Coetzee
Chris Heiberg 17 Danie Mienie
Oliver Hoskins 18 Maks van Dyk
Angus Cottrell 19 Steven Sykes
Chris Alcock 20 Tienie Burger
Ian Prior 21 Tian Meyer
Zack Holmes 22 Willie du Plessis
Marcel Brache 23 Ryno Benjamin
Location: nib Stadium, Perth Kickoff: Sat 11 Apr 21:45 Referee: Rohan Hoffmann Assistant Ref 1: Will Houston Assistant Ref 2: Graham Cooper TMO : Ian Smith