Preview: Western Force v Lions

Date published: May 23 2014

The Western Force will be keen to return to the victory trail when they host the Lions at the nib Stadium in Perth on Saturday.

The Western Force will be keen to return to the victory trail when they host the Lions at the nib Stadium in Perth on Saturday.

Top priority for the Force will be to shrug-off the disappointment of last weekend's defeat to the Stormers and secure the win which will consolidate their place amongst the tournament's frontrunners.

Dealing with the effects of their journey over the Indian Ocean would have been equally important in the build-up to this match.

Travel fatigue is, however, likely to be the last thing they will worry about as a bonus point victory could see them finish this week as high as third on the overall standings.

Having won four of their last five matches at home there is no doubt that pride would be another factor that should spur Michael Foley's men on as they brace for a battle against a Lions outfit that has blow hot and cold throughout this season.

“We love playing at home and we're looking forward to the game this weekend,” Foley said ahead of the clash.

The Force have won their last five matches against the Lions and have only ever lost to the men from Johannesburg on one occasion.

Heading into the contest Foley brought lock Wilhelm Steenkamp and wing Dane Haylett-Petty back in to the starting XV that lost to the Stormers last week.

Shrugging off that disappointing performance will be crucial, but fortunately for the Force, they are up against a side that was equally unimpressive last weekend in thieir loss to the Waratahs in Sydney.

The wholesale changes Lions coach Johan Ackermann made to his side speaks volumes of the fatigue levels within his squad.

Although solid at the set-phase, the Lions have started missing more first-time tackles than what was the case at the start of the season and if they fail to address that aspect this weekend, their tour could very well end with another humiliating defeat.

Foley, however, did not look at this match as an opportunity to hand the visiting side their seventh loss in as many games, and instead highlighted the strengths of their unpredictable opponents.

“The Lions have proven to be a dangerous side on the back of a strong set piece and their commitment to play for each other, and I believe the boys are refocused and ready to rip in,” said Foley.

The most significant difference between these sides lies in their ability to remain composed when pressure is at a premium, so should the Lions again fail to work through those tough periods in play, the Force could find themselves in a prime position to cement their place in the play-offs.

Previous results:
2012: Force beat Lions 17-11 in Peth
2011: Force beat Lions 27-15 in Johannesburg
2010: Force beat Lions 33-12 in Johannesburg
2008: Force beat Lions 55-14 in Perth

Prediction: Unless the Lions show considerable improvement, they could very well be on the receiving end of another drubbing. Force to win it by nine points!

The teams:

Western Force: 15 Jayden Hayward, 14 Dane Haylett-Petty, 13 Chris Tuatara-Morrison, 12 Luke Burton, 11 Nick Cummins, 10 Sias Ebersohn, 9 Ian Prior, 8 Ben McCalman, 7 Matt Hodgson (captain) 6. Angus Cottrell, 5 Wilhelm Steenkamp, 4 Sam Wykes, 3 Kieran Longbottom, 2 Nathan Charles, 1 Pek Cowan.
Replacements: 16 Heath Tessmann, 17 Tetera Faulkner, 18 Ollie Hoskins, 19 Adam Coleman, 20 Brynard Stander, 21 Justin Turner, 22 Zack Holmes, 23 Patrick Dellit

Lions: 15 Coenie van Wyk, 14 JW Jonker, 13 Deon van Rensburg, 12 Alwyn Hollenbach, 11 Anthony Volmink, 10 Marnitz Boshoff, 9 Ross Cronjé, 8 Warren Whiteley (captain), 7 Warwick Tecklenburg , 6 Jaco Kriel, 5 Franco Mostert, 4 Rudi Mathee, 3 Ruan Dreyer, 2 Armand van der Merwe, 1 Corné Fourie.
Replacements: 16 Robbie Coetzee,17 Jacques van Rooyen, 18 Julian Redelinghuys, 19 Willie Britz, 20 Stephan de Wit, 21 Faf de Klerk, 22 Elton Jantjies, 23 Stefan Watermeyer

Date: Saturday May 24
Venue: nib Stadium, Perth
Kick-off: 17.40local, 09.40 GMT
Referee: Steve Walsh (Australia)
Assistant referees: James Leckie (Australia), Ian Smith (Australia)
Television match official: Peter Marshall (Australia)