Vodacom Super 14

‘Full’ Force face Cheetahs

2009-02-16 16:07
Naka Drotske

Rob Houwing

Cape Town – The Force are clearly in no mood to roll over in Perth on Friday and allow the Cheetahs a first ever overseas win in the Vodacom Super 14.

Cheetahs coach Naka Drotske has hinted that his notoriously poor-travelling side will target their two Australian fixtures – against Force and then the Reds in Brisbane – for an historic end to their drought.

Should they fail in both, the Free Staters, already downed by the Lions in Johannesburg in round one, seem even less likely to break their duck in the three remaining tour matches in New Zealand.

Drotske no doubt feels the Western Australians are vulnerable after the off-season turbulence involving coach John Mitchell and a first-up home defeat to the Blues at Subiaco Oval last Friday.

But the Force have a few seasoned elements of their armoury filtering back into the picture after injury and probably available for selection against Juan Smith and company.

Among them are Wallabies Scott Staniforth and Josh Valentine, as well as Australia ‘A’ midfielder Junior Pelesasa who missed the entire 2008 campaign with a knee injury.

The availability of both Pelesasa and veteran fellow-midfielder Staniforth will compensate for the “doubtful” status early this week for Ryan Cross, who was such a revelation last season and earned the Force ‘Player of the Year’ mantle as well as Wallaby caps. He has a shoulder injury.

But the Force are beefed further by a clean bill of health for ex-Waratahs scrumhalf Valentine, after a hamstring problem.

The Cheetahs were pipped 16-15 at home by the Force last season, and whipped 45-17 in Perth a year before that.

Even in finishing bottom in their maiden Super 14 season in 2006, the Force earned their lone triumph by beating the Cheetahs 16-14 in South Africa.

Meanwhile, Reds coach Phil Mooney intends lodging a complaint against South African referee Marius Jonker following the 33-20 reverse to the Bulls at Loftus.

The Reds switch to Cape Town now to play the Stormers at Newlands on Friday night.

Mooney, according to The Australian newspaper, will complain not because he feels Jonker “favoured” the Bulls, but due to the official not penalising home players for “playing the man and not the ball in the air”.

The newspaper reported -- not incorrectly after a scrappy encounter -- that the skies “rained bombs” (high balls) at Loftus.
“It was like Pearl Harbor,” Mooney was reported as saying.

The under-pressure Stormers will be planning a few explosives of their own for a must-win game against the Reds, although they tend not to be a hoist-and-hope sort of outfit.


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