The Force – who have already beaten the Rebels, Chiefs and Waratahs in Perth this season – last have four in a row at home was in 2007. No South African side has won overseas yet, so this will be an ideal time for the men from Pretoria to make a statement as they aim to keep their play-off hopes alive. The Bulls will know about home ground advantage, given that they achieved three wins and a drawn in their four appearance at Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria this season.
Force coach Michael Foley said his side is looking forward returning home. “In the last three weeks the boys have tackled one of the toughest sections of the season – three consecutive derbies, with travel across the country for each match . It was a significant challenge,” he said. “While we were disappointed in aspects of our game [in the loss] against the Rebels [last week], the win against the Reds away and our first ever win against the Waratahs at home were great signs of the progress the boys have made.
“This weekend marks the first of four consecutive games against South African opponents who present a different type of challenge to Australian and New Zealand teams. “South African sides use their set piece and kicking games as weapons and we will need to perform well in both these areas to achieve success in the next month.” World Cup-winning Springbok lock Victor Matfield, who will captain the Bulls in the absence of suspended skipper Flip van der Merwe, said the men from Pretoria are definitely still in contention for the play-offs – despite being winless on their Australasian trip so far.
He felt that they only need to change “small things” to get their campaign back on track. “If you look at the games on tour, we could have won the all three,” he said of the defeats to the Hurricanes (20-25), Highlanders (20-27) and Waratahs (12-19). “We got a bonus point in each of those games, which could be vital at the end of the season.”
He felt that if they make better decisions and are more accurate they can get that elusive win before returning home next week. “There is no magic potion,” the 36-year-old Matfield said in a teleconference call from Perth. “We must stay positive and stay focussed, then we could get the win at the weekend.
“Yes, there is a lot of pressure on the team, but if you want to be one of the top teams you have to be able to handle the pressure.”
2013: Bulls won 36-26, Pretoria
2011: Force won 26-21, Perth
2010: Bulls won 28-15, Perth
2009: Bulls won 32-29, Pretoria
2008: Force won 15-14, Perth
2007: Force won 30-27, Pretoria
Western Force: 15 Jayden Hayward, 14 Dane Haylett-Petty, 13 Marcel Brache, 12 Kyle Godwin, 11 Nick Cummins, 10 Sias Ebersohn, 9 Ian Prior, 8 Ben McCalman, 7 Matt Hodgson (captain), 6 Angus Cottrell, 5 Sam Wykes, 4 Adam Coleman, 3 Kieran Longbottom, 2 Nathan Charles, 1 Pek Cowan.
Replacements: 16 Heath Tessmann, 17 Tetera Faulkner, 18 Ollie Hoskins, 19 Wilhelm Steenkamp, 20 Brynard Stander, 21 Justin Turner, 22 Zack Holmes, 23 Chris Tuatara-Morrison.
Bulls: 15 Jurgen Visser, 14 Akona Ndungane, 13 Johannes Engelbrecht, 12 Jan Serfontein, 11 Bjorn Basson, 10 Jacques-Louis Potgieter, 9 Francois Hougaard, 8 Grant Hattingh, 7 Jacques du Plessis, 6 Jono Ross, 5 Victor Matfield (captain), 4 Paul Willemse, 3 Werner Kruger, 2 Mbongeni Mbonambi, 1 Dean Greyling.
Replacements: 16 Bandise Maku, 17 Marcel van der Merwe, 18 Jacques Engelbrecht, 19 Wimpie van der Walt, 20 Rudy Paige, 21 Handré Pollard, 22 Ulrich Beyers, 23 Morné Mellet.
Referee: Angus Gardner (Australia)
Assistant referees: James Leckie (Australia) , Matt O’Brien (Australia)
TMO: Peter Marshall (Australia)