Two of Super Rugby's strugglers this season will face off at nib Stadium in Perth on Friday as the Force host the touring Sharks.
Two of Super Rugby's strugglers this season will face off in Perth on Friday as the Force host the touring Sharks.
Their heavy 41-7 defeat to the Brumbies aside, the Force have been there or thereabouts in recent weeks, drawing with the Reds at home and surprising the Crusaders.
Last weekend saw them pipped to the post by the Chiefs in Pukekohe, indicating that the Force can be competitive in this year's competition. Going down 22-21 is a result they should be proud of.
In several areas however, the statistics are damning. Tries have been short for the Force – only the Kings have scored fewer than the Perth side's 19 this season. Their line-out is the worst in the tournament with a success rate of 78.4 per cent.
The other side of the coin does not read well either. The Force's tackle success rate of 84.9 per cent is the second worst in the league.
Michael Foley has recalled scrum-half Alby Mathewson to the starting line-up in the only change in the Western Australian line-up.
The Sharks meanwhile arrive in Perth knowing that their play-off chances are hanging by a thread.
An unsuccessful tour has seen the Sharks fall to losses against the Chiefs, Highlanders and Reds – adding to a losing run that now stretches to six matches since their last success against the Crusaders in April.
John Plumtree's side cannot afford any more slip-ups and a victory in Perth would provide them with a confidence boost ahead of a double header against the Bulls.
Tries have been hard to come by with only 22 scored thus far, Pat Lambie's boot tending to be the Sharks' main weapon.
Their defence and line-out rank as one of the best in the league meaning the Sharks have a strong platform from which to work, but their effectiveness in attack has been absent.
Springbok tighthead prop Jannie du Plessis has been promoted to the starting XV. Head coach John Plumtree has decided to give the experienced front-row forward a run in place of in-form youngster Wiehahn Herbst.
Other changes to the side see Odwa Ndungane come in for Piet Lindeque on the wing while Willem Alberts replaces Jean Deysel at blindside.
Prediction: With the Force playing well but missing out on the results, this could be their time. Force by 3!
Western Force: 15 Jayden Hayward, 14 Patrick Dellit, 13 Ben Jacobs, 12 Kyle Godwin, 11 Nick Cummins, 10 Sias Ebersohn, 9 Alby Mathewson, 8 Ben McCalman, 7 Chris Alcock, 6 Matt Hodgson (c), 5 Sam Wykes, 4 Toby Lynn, 3 Kieran Longbottom, 2 Heath Tessmann, 1 Pek Cowan.
Replacements: 16 James Hilterbrand, 17 Tetera Faulkner, 18 Rory Walton, 19 Richard Brown, 20 Brett Sheehan, 21 Junior Rasolea, 22 Sam Norton-Knight.
Sharks: 15 Riaan Viljoen, 14 Odwa Ndungane, 13 JP Pietersen, 12 Meyer Bosman, 11 Lwazi Mvovo, 10 Patrick Lambie, 9 Charl McLeod, 8 Keegan Daniel (c), 7 Willem Alberts, 6 Marcell Coetzee, 5 Franco van der Merwe, 4 Anton Bresler, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Kyle Cooper, 1 JC Janse van Rensburg.
Replacements: 16 Monde Hadebe, 17 Wiehahn Herbst, 18 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 19 Derick Minnie / Lubabalo Mtembu, 20 Jean Deysel, 21 Tian Meyer, 22 Piet Lindeque.
Date: Friday, May 17
Kick-off: 19:45 local (12:45 BST, 11:45 GMT)
Venue: nib Stadium, Perth