The Western Force look to improve their table position (last in Australasian Group) against a re-born Bulls team (third in African Group) who may be hitting a peak.
History shows the Bulls ahead with four wins out of the last six matches against the Force. They are also looking for their fifth win in a row; if they achieve it, it will match their strongest performance since 2013 which saw them into the finals race.
The Force present with five losses in a row. It should be noted that three games were away against Kiwi opposition, whereas the Bulls are yet to play outside of the African Group.
For the Force, the classy winger, Morahan (11) returns as does Prior (10)—and Scoble (2) and Matuauto (13) join the run-on squad at the expense of a little experience. Clearly the Force are feeling a little bruised after the capitulation to the Waratahs last week and Foley is “ringing the changes”.
Ian Prior – back playing against the Bulls
Discussion at the Bulls is of stability, but Ulengo has returned to Africa for personal reasons and is replaced by Basson (11), and another youngster, Liebenberg earns the no 8 jersey. This is said to be a rotation (with Arno Botha sitting out) which seems a little unusual as the Bulls are coming off a bye.
Possibly the Force have advantage in the loose forwards and the Bulls advantage in the centres. Both half combinations have been interrupted with changes.
Games between these two teams have often been dour affairs. But the new Bulls have a mandate for ball-in-hand rugby. This is added to an intelligent kicking game and a scrum that is not far from the traditional strength the Bulls take pride in.
Harry Scoble v Waratahs last week – is matched up with old stager Adriaan Strauss
Foley v Marais
Yes the coaches. Both are in building years. Marais’ background is three years in U21 and a year with the Blue Bulls Currie Cup team where he pushed a move away from conservative rugby – and almost pulled it off. The Blue Bulls were entertaining but known to revert to type under stress. Marais has brought through the youngsters to the Super Rugby franchise and so far, so good, ball-in-hand rugby dominates.
Foley took over the Western Force in 2013 and in effect has been building ever since. It is hard not to wonder what record (or lack of) is required before the Force look at changing the coaching staff.
Hooker: Scoble v Strauss
Scoble starts in the hooking role after an excellent 37 mins in Super Rugby from the bench and faces the mercurial Springbok – Strauss. “Welcome to first grade, Scoble. We are rooting for you”.
Locks: Coleman v Snyman
Coleman (204cm, 122kg, 27 caps) looks to have the experience and must be one of the top five locks in Australia. Snyman (206cm, 117kg, 10 caps) got his chance at the Blue Bulls last year and Marais brought him through to Super Rugby. He’s been playing the house down, and is possibly a future Springbok. The Bulls did lose some lineouts against the Reds, and perhaps the Force will target that area.
Jan Serfontein v Force 2014 – worth a watch
Others to watch
Dane Haylett-Petty has been having a great year at fullback for the Force. A combination with the returning Morahan (they may have plenty of opportunity with kick returns) should keep the opposition honest.
Jan Serfontein, at Bulls inside centre has taken creativity to heart even using the chip kick successfully in his last game. (Not very Bulls-like!)
Why should I bother?
The Force are good at making other teams slip on a rugby banana skin in Perth, just ask the Waratahs and the Crusaders. They’ve had some good moments in Super Rugby games this year including winning in Brisbane and playing well in the first halves against the Hurricanes, Chiefs and Highlanders in NZ.
This could be the game where they put it together against an overseas team.
The players mentioned above are worth a look also, especially young Scoble running on for the first time. One of these days he and Ready of the Reds may be in a Wallaby matchday team and you can say to yourself—I remember when…
Australian rugby needs more success from our western franchise. Foley has shaken it up, but not enough unfortunately.
The Bulls fans are not confident but want at least this game from their Aussie tour of three games, especially since they are coming off a bye and the Force have had only a six-day turnaround after their rugged match against the Waratahs.
Bulls by 8.