Preview: Western Force v Stormers

Date published: July 8 2016

The Stormers will look to continue where they left off against the Rebels last weekend when they face the Western Force in Perth on Saturday.

The men from the Cape finished strongly in Melbourne, eventually claiming a memorable 57-31 victory over their hosts which enhanced their play-off hopes.

The Force, meanwhile, returned to action from the break for the June internationals and impressed in their clash against the Cheetahs but suffered a narrow 30-29 defeat in Bloemfontein.

Another victory will secure the Stormers top spot on the Africa Conference One table – as well as a home quarter-final – and they will fancy their chances of doing just that against the Force, who are languishing at the bottom of the Australian Conference standings.

Stormers head coach Robbie Fleck wants his team to finish their Australian tour with a convincing performance.

“It is vital that we continue to build momentum as a team, so our focus is on making another step up and making it two wins from two games on our tour,” he said.

The Stormers have won seven of the nine meetings between these sides in Super Rugby, including the last four, while the Force have lost 13 of their last 14 home games, including the last nine in a row.

The Force side have lost their last three home matches against South African opposition, however they have never lost four such fixtures on the bounce.

The Stormers have conceded only nine tries when the opposition begins possession within the Stormers 22m zone, the equal fewest of any team in the competition (Highlanders).

The last time these teams met: The Stormers claimed a hard-fought 13-6 victory in Perth at the end of their Australasian tour. Although the Force delivered a gallant effort, the result was their eighth straight defeat of the season. A penalty try to the Stormers was this encounter's only five-pointer with the visitors' other points coming via a conversion and a penalty from Demetri Catrakilis, and a penalty from Kurt Coleman. The Force's points came via two Luke Burton penalties.

Players to watch: Although the Force have battled throughout the season, the performances of full-back Dane Haylett-Petty were superb throughout. The 27-year-old's fine form was rewarded when he made his Test debut during Australia's recent series against England and although the results didn't go the Wallabies' way, he gave a good account of himself. Haylett-Petty is one of only three players – along with Damian McKenzie of the Chiefs and the Waratahs' Israel Folau – to gain in excess of 1,000m so far this season.

Also keep an eye on young Stormers fly-half Jean-Luc du Plessis who was in brilliant form in the win over the Rebels, finishing that match with a 27-point haul thanks to a try, five conversions and four penalties. Du Plessis started the season as the Stormers' third-choice fly-half but injuries to Robert du Preez and Kurt Coleman has thrust him into the limelight and he has impressed with several commanding performances. Du Plessis has shown on a number of occasions that he can bring out the best in his outside backs with intelligent playmaking skills but is also solid in the tackle and doesn't shirk his defensive duties.

Team news: The Western Force have made four changes to their starting line-up. Ben Tapuai returns to the run-on side at outside centre, while local product Richard Hardwick has been named for his first start, on the blindside flank. In the other changes to the matchday 23, Guy Millar comes into the starting line-up at tighthead prop for Tetera Faulkner, who suffered an Achilles tendon injury against the Cheetahs last week, Ryan Louwrens gets the nod at starting scrum-half and Jermaine Ainsley comes onto the bench.

Stormers coach Robbie Fleck has made two injury-enforced changes to his starting XV after last week's win over the Rebels. Sikhumbuzo Notshe replaces Nizaam Carr on the flank whilst Alistair Vermaak starts at loosehead prop as Oli Kebble is sidelined with a knee injury. As a result, prop Wilco Louw and utility back Huw Jones come onto the replacements bench which features five forwards and three backs. Rynhardt Elstadt will earn his 50th Stormers cap if he comes off the replacements bench.

Form: The Force came agonisingly close to securing a morale-boosting victory over the Cheetahs last weekend but eventually suffered a 30-29 loss in Bloemfontein. Prior to that, they suffered back-to-back defeats against the Blues and the Rebels before the one-month break for the June Tests. Their last victory was registered in Round 11 – a 40-22 triumph over Sunwolves in Tokyo.

The Stormers are on a high after scoring seven tries in last weekend's demolition of the Rebels in Melbourne. That result sets them up nicely ahead of their visit to the Force and next weekend's encounter with the Kings in the last match of the league phase of the competition. Prior to that, they suffered a narrow defeat at home to the Waratahs (32-30) before drawing with the Sunwolves (17-17) in Singapore in Round 12 but in their next match they lost (17-13) to the Bulls in a bruising derby in Pretoria.

Prediction: The Stormers head into this clash full of confidence and, despte playing away from home, should win comfortably. Stormers to win by 10 points.

Previous results: 

2015: Stormers won 13-6 in Perth
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 Marcel Brache, 13 Ben Tapuai, 12 Kyle Godwin, 11 Luke Morahan (c), 10 Jono Lance, 9 Ryan Louwrens, 8 Angus Cottrell, 7 Chris Alcock, 6 Richard Hardwick, 5 Rory Walton, 4 Ross Haylett-Petty, 3 Guy Millar, 2 Harry Scoble, 1 Pek Cowan 
Replacements: 16 Anaru Rangi, 17 Francois van Wyk, 18 Jermaine Ainsley, 19 Matt Philip, 20 Brynard Stander, 21 Ian Prior, 22 Peter Grant, 23 Semisi Masirewa

Stormers: 15 Jaco Taute, 14 Kobus van Wyk, 13 Daniel du Plessis, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Leolin Zas, 10 Jean-Luc du Plessis, 9 Nic Groom, 8 Schalk Burger (c), 7 Siya Kolisi, 6 Sikhumbuzo Notshe, 5 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Vincent Koch, 2 Bongi Mbonambi, 1 Alistair Vermaak 
Replacements: 16 Scarra Ntubeni, 17 JP Smith, 18 Wilco Louw, 19 JD Schickerling, 20 Rynhardt Elstadt, 21 Louis Schreuder, 22 Huw Jones, 23 Scott van Breda

Date: Saturday, July 9
Venue: nib Stadium, Perth
Kick-off: 19:45 local (11:45 GMT)
Referee: Mike Fraser
Assistant Referees: Graham Cooper, Michael Hogan
TMO: Peter Marshall