Preview: Force v Cheetahs

Date published: April 10 2015

1022.6666666666666x767__origin__0x0_489129379_3139299

Two strugglers face off in Perth on Saturday when the Western Force host the Cheetahs in Super Rugby.

The two sides have only achieved three wins between them so far in 2015 but now face off ten years on from their introduction to the competition.

Shared similarities don't end there, given that the Force and Cheetahs haven't quite hit the heights promised after their shock wins away from home in Round 1.

Scoring four tries and winning away in Sydney against the champion Waratahs was a stunner from the Force, seeming to back up their success from 2014 when they were pushed out of contention for the playoffs in the dying stages.

The absence of Matt Hodgson has been telling while big figures from last year, such as Kyle Godwin, haven't recaptured the buzz they created.

Six successive defeats since that opening day triumph have included some promising moments, while the Force have also picked up three losing bonus points which are ultimately the difference in them being above the Reds in the Australian Conference.

Their attack though has lacked a cutting edge, with the Force making the third highest number of carries in the competition yet found down the bottom of the statistics when it comes to tries and defenders beaten. Their scrum as well ranks as the worst in Super Rugby with a 73 percent success rate.

The good news is that the Cheetahs possess the second-worst scrum and the leakiest defence, given no one has conceded more points than their 233 thus far and they are missing an average of 22.6 tackles per game.

Shoring up that area of their game has been a persistent problem for the Cheetahs this year and last year, hindering any potential success because they remain one of the more entertaining sides to watch in the competition.

Joe Pietersen's arrival and conversion as a fly-half has worked well, while the back row duo of Heinrich Brussow and Boom Prinsloo always stand out, but they remain some way behind the best sides collectively.

The Cheetahs did trouble the Brumbies last week in Canberra but could only must three points – more will obviously will be needed if they are to topple the Force at home and avoid equalling their worst losing run of six defeats, which goes back to 2009.

The last time these teams met: The Force picked up the 23-16 win last year in Bloemfontein, thanks to tries from Jayden Hayward and Nick Cummins along with the boot of South African fly-half Sias Ebersohn.

Players to watch: Second row Adam Coleman has been getting plenty of buzz in recent weeks after some towering performances in the second row, including a memorable try against the Sharks. Partnered by captain Sam Wykes in the engine room, Coleman gives the Force plenty of ballast but more carries could help him catch the eye of Michael Cheika. Ben McCalman is another huge player for the home side in that regard.

For the away team livewire scrum-half Sarel Pretorius is in his final season with the side before heading to Wales to link up with Newport Gwent Dragons. A key performer over recent years for the Cheetahs and a constant try-scoring threat with his pace, look out for him to snipe around the fringes.

Team news: Dane Haylett-Petty, who returned from a six-week foot injury off the bench against the Sharks a fortnight ago, will start in the 15 jersey with Luke Morahan to start on the wing. On the bench, Chris Alcock returns to the Force’s match day 23 while Marcel Brache will provide coverage for the outside backs.

For the Cheetahs, BG Uys starts at loosehead prop as Danie Mienie moves to the bench and at scrum-half Pretorius is back in the line-up for the benched Tian Meyer.

Form: After winning their opening game this season the Force have since lost six in a row and have not lost seven in a row since losing the opening nine matches of their first season in Super Rugby. The Cheetahs' record of course isn't exactly a lot better, with five straight losses. The teams that have fallen to these two so far are the Waratahs, Sharks and Blues. The Force have faced the Cheetahs eight times in total with six of those games being decided by fewer than 10 points; each of those six games saw fewer than 40 points scored combined.

Predictions: Fans would love to see Willie le Roux and Cornal Hendricks let loose but this feels destined to be a low-scoring clash between the two packs and an ugly battle in the scrums. Home advantage might clinch it. Force by 5.

Previous results:

2014: Force won 23-16 in Bloemfontein
2013: Cheetahs won 19-10 in Perth
2012: Cheetahs won 17-13 in Bloemfontein
2010: Cheetahs won 29-14 in Perth

The teams:

Western Force: 15 Dane Haylett-Petty, 14 Luke Morahan, 13 Kyle Godwin, 12 Luke Burton, 11 Nick Cummins, 10 Sias Ebersohn, 9 Alby Mathewson, 8 Ben McCalman, 7 Kane Koteka, 6 Steve Mafi, 5 Adam Coleman, 4 Sam Wykes (c), 3 Tetera Faulkner, 2 Nathan Charles, 1 Pekahou Cowan.
Replacements: 16 Heath Tessmann, 17 Chris Heiberg, 18 Oliver Hoskins, 19 Angus Cottrell, 20 Chris Alcock, 21 Ian Prior, 22 Zack Holmes, 23 Marcel Brache

Cheetahs: 15 Willie le Roux, 14 Cornal Hendricks, 13 Johann Sadie, 12 Francois Venter, 11 Raymond Rhule, 10 Joe Pietersen, 9 Sarel Pretorius, 8 Willie Britz, 7 Boom Prinsloo, 6 Heinrich Brussow, 5 Francois Uys (c), 4 Carl Wegner, 3 Coenie Oosthuizen, 2 Torsten van Jaarsveld, 1 BG Uys.
Replacements: 16 Stephan Coetzee, 17 Danie Mienie, 18 Maks van Dyk, 19 Steven Sykes, 20 Tienie Burger, 21 Tian Meyer, 22 Willie du Plessis, 23 Ryno Benjamin.

Date: Saturday, April 11
Venue: nib Stadium, Perth
Kick-off: 19:45 local (11:45 GMT, 21:45 AEST, 23:45 NZST, 13:45 SAST)
Referee: Rohan Hoffmann
Assistant Referees: Will Houston, Graham Cooper
TMO: Ian Smith

COMMENTS