Cape Town - The Cheetahs will be hoping for their fourth win of the season when they host the Western Force in Bloemfontein on Saturday.
The home side are in a difficult space at this point of the competition as they cannot catch teams in front of them and can only try not get overtaken in the South African group. The Jaguares are close behind them and to finish this Super Rugby season behind the Jaguares in the South American team's debut season would be embarrassing for Franco Smith's men.
The Force's season has not been smooth sailing either, as the men from Perth have only managed two wins all competition. A record so poor that the Force management decided the team would be better off without head coach Michael Foley, and fired the former Wallaby hooker over the international break. In his place comes Dave Wessels, a South African-born coach, who was originally involved in Rugby League with Perth Spirit before joining the Western Force.
At this late stage of the game the Force's ambitions are very simple: don't finish last. At the moment the wooden spoon has been forced into their hands but the Reds are only four points ahead of them on the table.
This makes the men from Queensland an attainable target if things go terribly for them against the Brumbies in Canberra, which is really the most likely scenario. If the Force can muster a bonus point win over the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein they can save some face this season.
Wessels said the team is looking forward to challenge the Cheetahs onslaught on Saturday and they are going do to everything they can to see the fruits of their labour.
"We’ve got 240 minutes left in the season," he told the Force's official website.
"We know that we’ve been really close to an outcome in our last few games and we’ve trained hard in this Test window to get the reward we want for all the months of hard work we’ve put in."
Wessels is looking forward to seeing Jono Lance back in the fold after an extended period of time on the sideline.
"Jono deserves a lot of credit for all the hard work he’s put in to get himself in such good physical shape after a long layoff," he said.
"Both he and Peter (Grant) have trained extremely well over the last few weeks."
The last time the teams met:
The Cheetahs beat the Force 24-15 in Perth last year. The Cheetahs came to ruin the Force's party, as the home side were out celebrate their ten year anniversary in Super Rugby. Cheetahs flyer Raymond Rhule scored the Cheetahs' first try of the game using his blistering pace after the Cheetahs played the ball wide. Dane Haylett-Petty assisted the first Force try when he very cleverly gave it away to Luke Morahan who dotted it down. The home side had the advantage just after the first half as Chris Alcock scored a try from the back of a maul to his side's tally 15-8. However a try from open-side flank Heinrich Brussow and the proficient boot of Cheetahs fullback-cum-flyhalf Joe Pietersen led the Bloemfontein franchise to a win away.
Players to watch: The international window might have allowed some players to catch a break and slow down. But the Cheetahs are lucky to have had Sergeal Petersen and Francois Venter picked for the SA 'A' side which means they will be rearing to go this weekend. Petersen was excellent for the 'A' side and has been great for the Cheetahs all season. In his last game in orange and white the speedster scored a try and terrorised the Stormers defence, expect much of the same from Petersen. Venter has really grown into his captaincy role this season. The former Bulls man has complimented his leadership with a strong attacking record, while letting his outside backs loose with some great distribution.
For the Force the looming presence of Luke Morahan on the left wing would intimidate most of his opposite numbers. The Brisbane-born flyer has used this season to prove his worth as an astute try scorer, which he has succeeded in. Morahan has scored five tries this season, two of which was in the Force's most recent Super Rugby game against the Rebels. Morahan is clearly picking up some form. Junior Rasolea has had a surprisingly quiet season but that the midfield bruiser should run riot in Bloemfontein on Saturday. With this speed, eye for the gap and his agility, the Cheetahs midfield will be wary of Rasolea.
Team news: Franco Smith has made a few changes to his team since their last match before the international window. Loose-head prop Ox Nche will take Charles Marais's place in the starting line up and will link up with Maks van Dyk and Torsten van Jaarsveld. With Lood de Jager out injured Carl Wegner will try and fill the Springbok's giant's shoes. The rest of the changes are all on the bench with Joseph Dweba donning the 16 jersey. The former SA U20 player could get his first cap in Super Rugby for the Cheetahs if called upon to replace van Jaarsveld. While Reniel Hugo, Henco Venter, George Whitehead and William Small-Smith all return from injury. The only players to retain their positions on the bench are Luan de Bruin and Shaun Venter.
Pek Cowan leads the force while hooker Harry Scoble has been named to earn his sixth Super Rugby cap with Tetera Faulkner to pack down at tighthead. New Wallaby Adam Coleman will scrum down with Ross Haylett-Petty in the second row. Brynard Stander and Chris Alcock will start at blind-side and open-side flank respectively with Angus Cottrell at No 8. Ian Prior will play scrum-half inside Jono Lance for just the second time this season. In midfield Kyle Godwin fills the No 12 jersey while Rasolea has been elevated to the starting line up at outside centre. The back three remains unchanged from the club’s last outing with Luke Morahan and Marcel Brache named on the wings while Dane Haylett-Petty is at fullback.
Form: The international window could change everything with regards to form but the Cheetahs were not exactly on a hot streak before the break. In their last five games they have one win against the Kings. They lost to a weak Reds side 30-17 in Brisbane before being dominated by the Waratahs 21-6 in Sydney. They returned to South Africa and beat the Kings 34-20 before a 31-24 loss to the Stormers in Cape Town.
The Western Force have a similar record with one win in their last five games. The men from Perth recorded some big home losses with 49-13 defeat to the Waratahs, and a 42-20 loss to the Bulls. They recorded their second win of the season against the Sunwolves with a 40-22 drubbing in Tokyo before a 17-13 home loss to the Blues.
2015: Cheetahs won 24-15 in Perth
2014: Western Force 16-23 Bloemfontein
2013: Cheetahs won 19-10 in Perth
2012: Cheetahs won 17-13 in Bloemfontein
2010: Cheetahs won 29-14 in Bloemfontein
2009: Western Force won 10-16 in Perth
2008: Western Force won 15-16 in Bloemfontein
2007: Western Force won 45-17 in Perth
2006: Western Force won 14-16 in Kimberel
15 Clayton Blommetjies, 14 Sergeal Petersen, 13 Francois Venter (captain), 12 Michael van der Spuy, 11 Raymond Rhule, 10 Fred Zeilinga, 9 Tian Meyer, 8 Uzair Cassiem, 7 Oupa Mohoje, 6 Paul Schoeman, 5 Francois Uys , 4 Carl Wegner, 3 Maks van Dyk, 2 Torsten van Jaarsveld, 1 Ox Nche
Substitutes: 16 Joseph Dweba, 17 Luan de Bruin, 18 Johan Coetzee, 19 Reniel Hugo, 20 Henco Venter, 21 Shaun Venter, 22 George Whitehead, 23 William Small-Smith
15 Dane Haylett-Petty, 14 Luke Morahan, 13 Junior Rasolea, 12 Kyle Godwin, 11 Marcel Brache, 10 Jono Lance, 9 Ian Prior, 8 Angus Cottrell, 7 Chris Alcock, 6 Brynard Stander, 5 Adam Coleman, 4 Ross Haylett-Petty, 3 Tetera Faulkner, 2 Harry Scoble, 1 Pek Cowan (captain)
Substitutes: 16 Anaru Rangi, 17 Francois van Wyk, 18 Guy Millar, 19 Rory Walton, 20 Richard Hardwick, 21 Ryan Louwrens, 22 Peter Grant, 23 Semisi Masirewa
Date: Saturday, July 2
Venue: Toyota Stadium, Bloemfontein
Referee: Kubo Shuhei (Japan)
Assistant Referees: AJ Jacobs (South Africa), Lourens van der Merwe (South Africa)
TMO: Willie Vos (South Africa)