South African-born fly-half Sias Ebersohn will make his debut for the Western Force in tonight’s Super Rugby clash with the Bulls in Pretoria.
Ebersohn signed from the Bloemfontein-based Cheetahs and coach Michael Foley will be banking on his knowledge of Highveld conditions.
He will also no doubt hope Ebersohn brings a better kicking game to the mix after the loss to the Southern Kings and the missed opportunities that could have brought victory against the Rebels a week earlier.
Foley has made three changes to the pack that will face a typically aggressive Bulls assault.
Toby Lynn, who plays his 50th Super game, comes into the starting line-up to join Hugh McMeniman in the second row.
Wallabies, prop Salesi Ma’afu and No.8 Richard, Brown will also start.
“The game represents a good opportunity for Sias in an environment in which he’s played in more than any other member of our team," Foley said.
“Salesi and Richard bring with them a great deal of experience and physicality and we’re all keen to mark Toby’s 50th game with a good performance
“We were disappointed with last week’s performance, but as a young team, the important thing is how we learn and progress
“There were numerous elements of our game that were positive, particularly the way we started the match, but we need our basics to be more consistent to build pressure and gain momentum at Super Rugby level.
“As we strive to improve our skills and the way we play, it’s important to remain composed and focused when errors occur, to ensure we continue to play as a XV and maximise opportunities we create."
The Force were the last Australian team to beat the Bulls at their Loftus Versfeld fortress.
In 2007 they caused a huge upset, coming from 17-6 down after 30 minutes to run out 30-27 winners.
But ominously the three-times champion Bulls have since won all their 11 games against Australian opposition in Pretoria.
Can the Force pull it off again?
Bookies certainly don’t think so. The Force have slumped from $1.19 favourites against the Southern Kings last weekend to $7.50 rank outsiders.
Smarting from the loss to the Kings, Foley will have worked overtime on key areas that let the side down in Port Elizabeth, in particular line-outs where they lost five on their own throw.
Discipline will be crucial.The Force have already had three yellow cards and cannot afford to give away penalties after Springbok Morne Steyn gave a faultless kicking display with six penalties and a conversion to punish the Stormers in the Bulls 25-17 win.
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