Vodacom Stormers Allister Coetzee is wary of the Force, who will be desperate for a victory when the teams do battle at the ME Bank stadium in Perth in a Vodacom Super 14 match on Friday.
Coetzee says the home side will be dangerous, as they are on a quest for a first victory. Coach John Mitchell’s team is winless after six games and is firmly rooted at the bottom of the log.
The Stormers are on a bit of a roll and occupies second spot on the log after winning five games and losing one. The Force, however, gave the log-leading Bulls a run for their money last weekend and Coetzee expects them to be dangerous opponents.
“They have players such as David Pocock, Richard Brown and Matt Dunning back and that will strengthen the Force team considerably. The inclusion of Ryan Cross at inside centre indicates they want to attack our young inside centre Tim Whitehead’s channel.
“But I am full of confidence that Tim will acquit him well there. The fact they moved James O’ Connor from centre to fullback indicates they want to give the ball more air. O’ Connor’s got great running skills that will test our defence but that will give us more chances to win turnover ball for counter-attacks.
“We also have a player like Gio Aplon at fullback who could be equally devastating on the attack.”
The coach said he expects the players on the bench to make an impact when they go on. “The last 20 minutes in the game is when they try to speed up play, so it will be good to have guys like Anton and Dewies coming back to up the tempo at the end of the game.
“That’s exactly the effect that jet lag will have on you, but I don’t want the players to pace themselves. We’ve got quality on the bench with guys like Brannes and Pieter Louw, and I’ve got no doubt that we’ll use our bench in the game.”
The coach doesn’t expect the Force to try and test wing Sireli Naqelevuki with too many kicks. “I’m pleased with the way that he’s developed in our system, and I don’t think he’s a weakness in the kicking game at all. I also don’t think the Force will be kicking a lot of ball away, with O’Connor at fullback they’ll probably be looking to run it back and keep the ball in hand.”
The coach concluded by emphasising how important this first game of the tour to the team was. “Every game is important and this one, to kick-start the tour on a good note, it’s important for us to win, but I’m not looking further than the Force.
“Every time we win, it puts us in a better position in this competition.”
Western Force: 5 James O’Connor, 14 Scott Staniforth, 13 Mitch Inman, 12 Ryan Cross, 11 Mark Bartholomeusz, 10 David Hill, 9 Chris O’Young, 8 Matt Hodgson, 7 David Pocock, 6 Ben McCalman, 5 Nathan Sharpe (captain), 4 Tom Hockings, 3 Tim Fairbrother, 2 Ben Whittaker, 1 Pek Cowan.
Replacements: 16 Nathan Charles, 17 Matt Dunning, 18 Richard Stanford, 19 Richard Brown, 20 Justin Turner, 21 Sam Harris, 22 Haig Sare.
Vodacom Stormers: 15 Gio Aplon, 14 Sireli Naqelevuki, 13 Jaque Fourie, 12 Tim Whitehead, 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Peter Grant, 9 Ricky Januarie, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 François Louw, 6 Schalk Burger (captain), 5 Andries Bekker, 4 De Kock Steenkamp, 3 Brok Harris, 2 Tiaan Liebenberg, 1 JC Kritzinger. Replacements: 16 Deon Fourie, 17 Eusebio Guinazu, 18 Anton van Zyl, 19 Pieter Louw, 20 Dewaldt Duvenage, 21 Willem de Waal, 22 Frikkie Welsh
Referee:Stuart Dickinson (Australia)
Assistant-referees: Ian Smith (Australia), Julian Pritchard (Australia)
TMO: Matthew Goddard (Australia)