Super Rugby AU, Round Nine - Teams and Predictions
SUFFERING FANS: Western Force players are determined to give their long-suffering fans a rare dose of joy in Saturday’s clash with the Waratahs at HBF Park.
The Force’s fans haven’t experienced a home Super Rugby win since July 15, 2017 when the Perth-based franchise beat the Waratahs 40-11.
The axe fell on the Force shortly after that, and the franchise had to play the entire season on the east coast last year when they were invited to participate in Super Rugby AU.
The Force have played two Super games in Perth this year, resulting in losses to the Brumbies and Rebels.
Saturday’s clash with the winless Waratahs represents the Force’s best chance to reward their home fans, and stand-in skipper Kyle Godwin said it was a big focus of the player group.
“We have the most loyal fan base in the world, and they haven’t had the opportunity of having a home game win yet,” Godwin said.
“That’s big on our minds this week. We want to give back to the fans. They’ve been so loyal to us, and they definitely deserve that win, and we’ll be playing for them tomorrow [Saturday].”
The Force sit a point adrift of the third-placed Melbourne Rebels with just two rounds to play.
And with the ladder-leading Reds awaiting them in the final round, the Force can ill afford to slip up against the last-placed Waratahs.
Bonus points could well decide who ends up finishing third, and Force coach Tim Sampson said it was in the back of his mind.
“Those fine margins in a tight points table, it does come into calculations no doubt,” he said.
“I think as long as we get the four points first off, and if we’re in a position to get that bonus point, then it will be of benefit no doubt. But we’ll concentrate on getting that win first.”
The Waratahs sprung a selection shock by naming inexperienced flyhalf Ben Donaldson to replace Will Harrison (hamstring).
Donaldson is yet to play a Super match this year due to injury, and he has been controversially rushed into the starting line-up ahead of Tane Edmed.
Sampson knows Donaldson well, and says the 22-year-old is a “handful”.
“Ben Donaldson has been around for a few years now and came through Junior Wallabies when I was part of the coaching set up there,” Sampson said.
“He’s quite a skilful young fellow, and has got a nice passing game.
“He likes to take it to the line. He’s courageous.”
We take a closer look at Round Nine’s matches!
Saturday, April 17:
Western Force v Waratahs
(HBF Park, Perth – Kick-off: 17:45; 19.45 AEST, 11.45 GMT)
Western Force logged a 20-16 win against the Waratahs when they met earlier this season (Round Three) and will now be hunting for two wins against them in a single Super Rugby season for just the second time (2015).
The Waratahs have lost their last six Super Rugby games in succession; the last and only previous time they lost more in succession was a nine-game stretch from April 2012 to February 2013.
The Western Force have scored the opening try of the game in seven of their last nine Super Rugby games against the Waratahs; although, they conceded the first try of the game when they last met in March this year.
The Waratahs have scored three tries on possession begun with a kick return this Super Rugby AU campaign, the most of any team in the competition.
Harry Johnson-Holmes (Waratahs) has crossed for a try in four of his last seven games away from home in Super Rugby, including one in his last away game against Western Force (Round Seven, 2020 Super Rugby AU).
@rugby365com: Western Force by five points.
Western Force: 15 Jack McGregor, 14 Richard Kahui, 13 Tevita Kuridrani, 12 Kyle Godwin (captain), 11 Jordan Olowofela, 10 Domingo Miotti, 9 Tomás Cubelli, 8 Brynard Stander, 7 Kane Koteka, 6 Tim Anstee, 5 Sitaleki Timani, 4 Jeremy Thrush, 3 Santiago Medrano, 2 Feleti Kaitu’u, 1 Tom Robertson.
Replacements: 16 Andrew Ready, 17 Angus Wagner, 18 Greg Holmes, 19 Ryan McCauley, 20 Fergus Lee-Warner, 21 Ian Prior, 22 Grason Makara, 23 Jake Strachan.
Waratahs: 15 Jack Maddocks, 14 Alex Newsome, 13 Izaia Perese, 12 Lalakai Foketi, 11 James Ramm, 10 Ben Donaldson, 9 Jake Gordon (captain), 8 Will Harris, 7 Carlo Tizzano, 6 Lachlan Swinton, 5 Max Douglas, 4 Hugh Sinclair, 3 Harry Johnson-Holmes, 2 David Porecki, 1 Angus Bell.
Replacements: 16 Tom Horton, 17 Te Tera Faulkner, 18 Darcy Breen, 19 Sam Caird, 20 Jeremy Williams, 21 Charlie Gamble, 22 Jack Grant, 23 Tane Edmed
Referee: Amy Perrett
Assistant referees: Graham Cooper & Matthew Kellahan
TMO: James Leckie
Sunday, April 18:
Melbourne Rebels v Brumbies
(AAMI Park, Melbourne – Kick-off: 14:00; 04.00 GMT)
The Rebels have won their last four home games on the bounce against the Brumbies in Super Rugby; their last defeat at home to the Canberra side came in Round 12,
The Brumbies succumbed to a 22-24 defeat to Queensland Reds in their last Super Rugby game and will now look to avoid consecutive defeats against Australian opponents in Super Rugby for the first time since a pair of losses to the Rebels in February/March 2019.
The Brumbies have finished three of their last four Super Rugby games with a 100 percent line-out success rate after having done so just three times in their 19 games prior.
The Brumbies have scored four tries from mauls this Super Rugby AU campaign, the most of any team in the competition, while the Rebels are the only team yet to score a try via this method.
Matt Toomua (Rebels) has scored 47 points in his last three Super Rugby games against the Brumbies, including a tally of 24 points from eight penalty goals in his last game against them (March 2021).
@rugby365com: Rebels by three points.
Melbourne Rebels: 15 Tom Pincus, 14 Frank Lomani, 13 Stacey Ili, 12 Campbell Magnay, 11 Marika Koroibete, 10 Matt To’omua (captain), 9 Joe Powell, 8 Michael Wells, 7 Richard Hardwick, 6 Joshua Kemeny, 5 Trevor Hosea, 4 Robert Leota, 3 Pone Faamausili, 2 James Hanson, 1 Matt Gibbon.
Replacements: 16 Jordan Uelese, 17 Cabous Eloff, 18 Cameron Orr, 19 Lucio Sordoni, 20 Ross Haylett-Petty, 21 Isi Naisarani, 22 Brad Wilkin, 23 James Tuttle, 24 Lewis Holland, 25 Glen Vaihu.
Brumbies: 15 Tom Banks, 14 Andy Muirhead, 13 Len Ikitau, 12 Bayley Kuenzle, 11 Tom Wright, 10 Noah Lolesio, 9 Ryan Lonergan, 8 Rob Valetini, 7 Rory Scott, 6 James Tucker, 5 Cadeyrn Neville, 4 Darcy Swain, 3 Allan Alaalatoa (captain), 2 Folau Fainga’a, 1 Scott Sio.
Replacements: 16 Lachlan Lonergan, 17 James Slipper, 18 Tom Ross, 19 Nick Frost, 20 Will Miller, 21 Nic White, 22 Reesjan Pasitoa, 23 Mack Hansen.
Referee: Damon Murphy
Assistant referees: Jordan Way, Reuben Keane
TMO: Brett Cronan
Source: AAP & SANZAAR
*Statistical information provided by Stats Perform