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The Emirates Western Force has ventured up South Africa’s Highveld to face the Bulls in Pretoria tonight in the visitors' 100th match in Super Rugby.
The Western Australians will be looking to bounce back from last week’s 22-10 loss to the Southern Kings in Port Elizabeth and have made four changes to their starting XV for tonight’s encounter.
No.8 Richard Brown and lock Toby Lynn have been promoted into the run-on side with the match marking Lynn’s 50th in Super Rugby, having played 32 caps for the Chiefs prior to joining the Perth-based side prior to the 2012 Super Rugby season.
Wallabies prop Salesi Ma’afu will make his first appearance for the Force in 2013 while flyhalf Sias Ebersohn makes his debut in the run-on side, having previously played three Super Rugby seasons for South Africa’s Free State-based Cheetahs between 2010 and 2012.
Winger Alfie Mafi will look to continue the strong finishing form that sees him equal atop the competition’s top try-scoring list with three tries from the opening two matches – just one short of his season tally of four for 2012.
Historically, little has separated the two sides with each winning three of their six encounters. Similarly, the ledger at Loftus Versfeld is currently squared at one apiece, with the Emirates Western Force winning their 2007 clash in Pretoria, 30-27, before succumbing 32-29 two years later.
The Bulls, mentored by Springboks coach Frans Ludeke, feature a number of South Africa’s frontline players, including captain Pierre Spies; perennial point scorer Morne Steyn; Springbok fullback Zane Kirchner and scrumhalf Francois Hougaard; and Wynand Olivier, who will become South Africa’s most-capped midfielder in Super Rugby, reaching his 104th match tonight.
Bulls v Emirates Western Force
Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria
Time: 5.05pm (local)/11.05pm (AWST)
Coverage: Live on Fox Sports 2 and 2HD.
Weather Forecast: Min: 15C Max: 24C Wind: SE 12kmh Partly cloudy. Scattered thunderstorms.
Where to watch in Perth: Carbon Sports Bar, Crown Perth
Official Twitter hashtag: #BULvFOR
Live match updates available on Twitter (@thewesternforce) with half-time/full-time scores available on Facebook (facebook.com/westernforce)
Last Meeting: Emirates Western Force 26 def Bulls 21 in Perth (2011)
Head to head: Played 6 – Emirates Western Force 3; Bulls 3
In Pretoria : Played 2 – Emirates Western Force 1; Bulls 1
Biggest win: Emirates Western Force 26 def Bulls 21 in Perth (2011)
Biggest loss: Bulls 28 def Emirates Western Force 15 in Perth (2010)
Emirates Western Force: Played 2; Won 0; Lost: 2; 1pt
Bulls: Played 1; Won 1; Lost: 0; 4pts
Emirates Western Force
1. Pek Cowan, 2. Nathan Charles, 3. Salesi Ma’afu, 4. Toby Lynn, 5. Hugh McMeniman, 6. Angus Cottrell, 7. Matt Hodgson (c), 8. Richard Brown, 9. Alby Mathewson, 10. Sias Ebersohn, 11. Alfie Mafi, 12. Kyle Godwin, 13. Winston Stanley, 14. Nick Cummins, 15. Will Tupou. Res: 16. Heath Tessmann, 17. Tetera Faulkner, 18. Sam Wykes, 19. Ben McCalman, 20. Chris Alcock, 21. Mick Snowden, 22. Jayden Hayward. Coach: Michael Foley
1. Morne Mellett, 2. Chiliboy Ralepelle, 3. Werner Kruger, 4. Flip van der Merwe, 5. Juandre Kruger, 6. Jacques Potgieter, 7. Arno Botha, 8. Pierre Spies (c), 9. Francois Hougaard, 10. Morne Steyn, 11. Bjorn Basson, 12. Wynand Olivier, 13. Lionel Mapoe, 14. Sampie Mastriet, 15. Zane Kirchner. Res: 16. Willie Wepener, 17. Frik Kirsten, 18. Grant Hattingh,19. Jean Cook, 20. Jano Vermaak, 21. Louis Fouche, 22. Jan Serfontein. Coach: Frans Ludeke
Referee: Jason Jaftha; Assistant Referees: Lourens van der Merwe, Sieg van Staden; TMO: Johan Greef