The Force will rely heavily on their South African contingent during Saturday's match against the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein. MARIETTE ADAMS reports.
These are two of the tournament's worst performing teams, with the Cheetahs having won just three of their 12 matches this season and the Force two.
The Force have won five of their nine matches against the Cheetahs and if Franco Smith's men do not improve their discipline, that record could get worse for them.
The Cheetahs have conceded 134 penalties so far this season and they also have the least successful scrum (73%). With the hosts needing to front up against a strong Force pack that is scrumming at 91%, Smith has opted to start Ox Nche at loosehead prop instead of Charles Marais.
The Force are a franchise in turmoil on the field and in the boardroom, but with a new interim coach in South African Dave Wessels and five Saffa players, they could well foil the Cheetahs.
Longstanding Force coach Michael Foley was sacked during the June break with Wessels, who moved to Australia in 2012, taking over. For his first Force team, he has picked Marcel Brache on the left wing and Brynard Stander at blindside flank, with Peter Grant, Ryan Louwens and Francois van Wyk on the bench.
While both teams have lacked creativity on attack, poor defence has been their biggest weakness. So we could be in for a open, free-flowing game or an insipid clash.
Either way, South Africans will be on the winning side.
HEAD TO HEAD
Overall: Force 5, Cheetahs 4
In Bloemfontein: Force 3, Cheetahs 2
STATS AND FACTS
– Despite not scoring more than nine points in an opening half against the Force since 2010, the Cheetahs have won four of their last five games against the Western Australian side.
– The Cheetahs have won their last two home games by a combined margin of 89 points and a third straight home win would equal the team's record in Super Rugby.
– The Force have won on only one of their last nine expeditions to South Africa, though that victory was against the Cheetahs in round 13 in 2014.
– The Force have the best goal-kicking conversion rate (90%) of any side in Super Rugby this season.
– Sergeal Petersen (63 carries) has made an average gain of 11.5m per carry, the most of any player in the competition who has made more than 10 carries.
|Team||Top point-scorer||Top try-scorer||Most metres gained||Most tackles|
|Cheetahs||Niel Marais (71)||Sergeal Petersen (8)||Sergeal Petersen (726)||Paul Schoeman (92)|
|Force||Peter Grant (52)||Luke Morahan (4)||Dane Haylett-Petty (822)||Matt Hodgson (162|
Cheetahs – 15 Clayton Blommetjies, 14 Sergeal Petersen, 13 Francois Venter, 12 Michael van der Spuy, 11 Raymond Rhule, 10 Fred Zeilinga, 9 Tian Meyer, 8 Uzair Cassiem, 7 Oupa Mohoje, 6 Paul Schoeman, 5 Francois Uys, 4 Carl Wegner, 3 Maks van Dyk, 2 Torsten van Jaarsveld, 1 Ox Nche.
Subs: 16 Joseph Dweba, 17 Luan de Bruin, 18 Johan Coetzee, 19 Reniel Hugo, 20 Henco Venter, 21 Shaun Venter, 22 George Whitehead, 23 William Small-Smith.
Force – 15 Dane Haylett-Petty, 14 Luke Morahan, 13 Junior Rasolea, 12 Kyle Godwin, 11 Marcel Brache, 10 Jono Lance, 9 Ian Prior, 8 Angus Cottrell, 7 Chris Alcock, 6 Brynard Stander, 5 Adam Coleman, 4 Ross Haylett-Petty, 3 Tetera Faulkner, 2 Harry Scoble, 1 Pek Cowan.
Subs: 16 Anaru Rangi, 17 Francois van Wyk, 18 Guy Millar, 19 Roro Walton, 20 Richard Hardwick, 21 Ryan Louwrens, 22 Peter Grant, 23 Semisi Masirewa.
Referee: Shuhei Kubo (Japan)
Assistant referees: AJ Jacobs (South Africa), Lourens van der Merwe (South Africa)
TMO: Willie Vos (South Africa)
Photo: Carl Devenish/Gallo Images