Preview: Western Force v Stormers

Date published: April 17 2015

There will be plenty of pressure on the Western Force when they take on the Stormers in Perth on Saturday.

The home side are currently languishing in 14th position in the standings – just a single point above the bottom-placed Reds – and can ill afford another loss after a run of seven successive defeats.

Last weekend, the Force surrendered a half-time lead and eventually lost 24-15 to the Cheetahs in Perth. The Stormers – who are in sixth place on the table – by contrast are on a massive high after securing a 32-18 bonus-point victory over the Waratahs in Sydney.

The Force's statistics for the season makes for interesting reading. They top the standings as the side that has made the most carries (962) but have made the least clean breaks (39). While the Stormers have been average in most departments, they are amongst the leading teams in the scrums with a 92 percent success rate.

Force coach Michael Cheika expects a gruelling battle against their visitors who have impressed with their physicality this season.

"As with any South African opponent, it's important that we're up for the physical challenge in defence and at the breakdown, which has been a feature of our performances in our past three matches," he said.

"While playing physically is a foundation, we have to play smart to finish off the effort that's being put in every week.

"When 'decision making' is mentioned, it's easy to assume there's a level of complexity, but it's a simple focus on firstly creating momentum and secondly playing with awareness to take opportunities we're creating."

Stormers assistant coach Robbie Fleck is not underestimating their hosts despite their positition in the standings.

“The Force are always a competitive side with a strong kicking and defensive game," he said.

“They’ve had a poor run of late, but they’ve been competitive in every game thus far and they’re not an easy side to play against.

“We need to have a bit of patience against a side with a strong kicking game and good chase lines… we need to work hard and recognise when opportunities arise and when they (opportunities) do we need to take advantage.”

The last time these teams met: The Stormers ran out 24-8 victors in a Round 14 clash in Cape Town last year – a result which elevated them from the foot of the table into 12th spot. The homeside started off brightly and held a 17-3 lead at the break after a penalty try and another five-pointer from Juan de Jongh. Ruan Botha scored their third and final try shortly after the break and Matt Hodgson got over the whitewash for the visitors' only try.

Players to watch: Despite the Force's poor run of results, centre Kyle Godwin is a player who has impressed with his form in recent weeks. Although he's usually an inside centre, Godwin has looked comfortable in the number 13 jersey and he could prove a handful with ball in hand.

The Stormers' Springbok flanker Siya Kolisi returns to the starting XV as a replacement for the injured Michael Rhodes and will be determined to cement his place in the run-on side. Kolisi has good ball-winning skills, is an aggressive defender and a powerful ball carrier who will be in the thick of the action throughout.

Team news: Western Force boss Michael Cheika has made just one change to his run-on side with Chris Alcock starting on the openside flank in place of Kane Koteka who is sidelined due to concussion. Amongst the replacements, former Australian U20 player Ross Haylett-Petty is set to make his Super Rugby debut. The visitors have made four changes to their starting XV. Up front, hooker Bongi Mbonambi, lock Ruan Botha and flanker Siya Kolisi come in to the side as replacements for Scarra Ntubeni, Manuel Carizza and Michael Rhodes respectively while in the back-line Louis Schreuder is preferred to Nic Groom at scrum-half.

Form: Last weekend's bonus-point victory over the Waratahs in Sydney has galvanised the Stormers after a three-match losing streak where they lost to the Chiefs, Highlanders and Hurricanes. That defeat against the Chiefs came after they kicked off their campaign with triumphs over the Bulls, Blues, Lions and Sharks.

The Force on the other hand can't buy a win at the moment. Their season started with a memorable win over the Waratahs in Sydney but they have lost their next seven matches against the Reds, Hurricanes, Brumbies, Rebels, Bulls, Sharks and Cheetahs.

Prediction: The Force's form will count against them while the Stormers are on a high after their win over the defending champions. Stormers to win by six points!

Previous results:

2014: Stormers won 24-8 in Cape Town
2012: Stormers won 17-3 in Perth
2011: Stormers won 51-16 in Cape Town
2010: Force won 16-15 in Perth
2009: Stormers won 25-24 in Cape Town

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 Chris Alcock, 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 Ross Haylett-Petty, 20 Angus Cottrell, 21 Ian Prior, 22 Zack Holmes, 23 Marcel Brache.

Stormers: 15 Cheslin Kolbe, 14 Kobus van Wyk, 13 Juan de Jongh (c), 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Dillyn Leyds, 10 Demetri Catrakilis, 9 Louis Schreuder, 8 Nizaam Carr, 7 Schalk Burger, 6 Siya Kolisi, 5 Ruan Botha, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Bongi Mbonambi, 1 Steven Kitshoff.
Replacements: 16 Scarra Ntubeni, 17 Ali Vermaak, 18 Vincent Koch, 19 Jean Kleyn, 20 Sikhumbuzo Notshe, 21 Nic Groom, 22 Kurt Coleman, 23 Huw Jones.

Date: Saturday, April 18
Venue: nib Stadium, Perth
Kick-off: 19.45 (11:45 GMT, 23:45 NZST, 13:45 SAST)
Referee: Mike Fraser
Assistant referees: Andrew Lees, Will Houston
TMO: Ian Smith