The Road Safety Western Force are back on home soil after a near round the world trip to Durban, South Africa and then to Buenos Aires, Argentina. The Western Australian side are back at the Force Field this Saturday, 20 May against an in-form Highlanders side, with the match kicking off at 5:45pm AWST.
The men from the West claimed a courageous win against the Jaguares last week in what was a scrappy affair in Buenos Aires, and will look to take the momentum from that win into the match against the dangerous Highlanders.
The Force hold a 6-4 win ratio against the Dunedin-based franchise, but the Highlanders have been victors in the last two encounters, including a 32-20 win at the ‘Glass House’ last year.
The last time the men in blue beat the Highlanders was a classic match in Dunedin in 2014 where the Force were stripped to 13 men with eight minutes to play and heroically held on to win by two points.
The Road Safety Western Force have made several changes from their winning side in Argentina, with Wallaby hooker Tatafu Polota-Nau coming into the starting No. 2 jersey, while we will also see Jermaine Ainsley, Brynard Stander, Peter Grant and Luke Morahan all in the starting XV this Saturday. On the bench we will see the welcomed return from injury of lock Matt Philip and scrumhalf Michael Ruru giving a much needed boost to the Force bench.
The Highlanders have also welcomed back some firepower with All Black flyhalf Lima Sopoaga returning from injury and will look to bring impact off the bench with fellow All Black Aaron Smith. Captain Elliot Dixon is another important inclusion and moves straight into the starting No.8 jersey, while Dan Lienert-Brown, Liam Coltman and Siate Tokolahi all come back into the starting front row.
Limiting the time and space that the Highlanders have with the ball will be paramount if the Force want to win this game tomorrow night. With so much explosive speed and power in this team, the men from the west will need to be up quickly in defence and make sure the kick-chase line is solid.
Giving away penalties anywhere near the Highlanders’ posts will also be a threat with flyhalf Marty Banks kicking at 93% from the tee, missing just three kicks so far this season.
The battle at inside centre will be one to watch on Saturday, with Bill Meakes and Richie Buckman going head-to-head at the Force Field.
Meakes, who will captain the side for the first time tomorrow night, was immense last week against the Jaguares carrying the ball 16 times, beating three defenders and made 8 tackles. His footwork into contact is dangerous and don’t be surprised if you see Bill coming out of the ruck with a pilfer or penalty at the breakdown.
His opposing number Richie Buckman has hit a patch of form in the past few weeks, and is a dangerous attacking player in what is a backline full of threats. The rugged centre is a master of open play and often pounces on the mistakes of the opposition team, scoring a try from exactly that a few weeks ago against the Melbourne Rebels.