Four players will make their Perth Spirit starting debut in the round three National Rugby Championship clash with Greater Sydney Rams at Adelaide Airport Stadium on Saturday.
Australian under-20 winger Brad Lacey will make his first appearance while hooker Robbie Abel, second row Kieran Stringer, and scrum-half Ian Prior, who will captain the side, have been elevated from the reserves bench.
Dillyn Leyds, who returns to Western Province at the end of the season, has been picked at full-back.
Only seven of the 23-man squad have Super Rugby experience with the Western Force.
In the first round the Spirit pulled off a surprise win against the Canberra Vikings with a majority of local club players yet a Western Force stacked side fell to Brisbane City on Sunday.
Coach David Wessels said the team had regrouped from the loss.
“This is a very hard-working group and that has been shown in both performances during this competition,” Wessels said.
“We learnt from both our games against the Vikings and Brisbane City that we need to be working as a unit throughout the match and making sure that this continues through until the final whistle.
“The standards and effort of everyone has been excellent. This week we have four players that will make their first appearances in our starting 15, as we look to continue to provide opportunities for both our local club and Western Force players to play alongside each other in this competition.
“In addition to broadening our own player base in WA, this week gives us an opportunity to grow the game by taking a match to Adelaide.
“While not necessarily the largest of Australia’s rugby nurseries, I understand there is still a strong rugby culture in South Australia and we’re excited about the opportunity to take this match to Adelaide this weekend.”
Perth Spirit: Alec Hepburn, Robbie Abel, Oliver Hoskins, Corey Thomas, Kieran Stringer, Brent Murphy, Kane Koteka, Alex Rovira, Ian Prior (capt), Zack Holmes, Vili Fielea, Luke Burton, Ammon Matuauto, Brad Lacey, Dillyn Leyds. Reserves: Harry Scoble, Joe Savage, Chris Heiberg, Rory Walton, Richard Hardwick, Justin Turner, Davis Tavita, Va’a Mailei.
Rams: Benn Robinson, Hugh Roach, Guy Millar, Jared Barry, Dylan Sigg, Steve Mafi, Hugh Perrett, Jed Holloway (capt), Mark Swanepoel, Ben Volavola, Taqele Naiyaravaro, Henry Taefu, Michael McDougall, Jerome McKenzie, Dane Chisholm. Reserves: Maile Ngauamo, Jed Gillespie, Dave Lolohea, Michale Kovavcic, Pat Sio, Vasa Falaelii, Jai Ayoub, Lalakai Foketi.
Force players will get the first opportunity to get a close look at their new teammate Steve Mafi who will line-up at blindside flanker for the rams.
Mafi, who has signed with the Force from powerhouse English club Leicester Tigers, started last week’s match against the Vikings in the second row.
It is that versatility that Force coach Michal Foley was seeking when he signed Mafi to replace Hugh McMeniman who has returned to play in Japan.
Force flanker Chris Alcock who is playing for the Rams in the NRC has a groin strain and will not play.
The Rams lost their opening matches to NSW Country and the Vikings and coach Brian Melrose has made several changes including Hugh Perrett moving from the blindside flank to openside to cover the loss of Alcock.
Dylan Sigg comes into second row while Jerome McKenzie will make his debut on the right wing.
Melrose hopes the nine day turnaround will help his side.
“There was always a little bit of mental and physical fatigue from the boys going deep into the Shute Shield competition,” Melrose sdsaid.
“I think we made some improvements last week, but not enough. Hopefully this week, with a bit longer and a bit of break over the weekend and a session or two this week, we’ve just had a bit more time to be ready and prepare, and that should be a good thing.”