The West

Force tobe reckoned in line-out
Force tobe reckoned in line-out

The Western Force line-out has finally recovered from the retirement of set-piece supremo Nathan Sharpe, shaping as one of the best in the Super Rugby competition this season.

With main targets Angus Cottrell and Sam Wykes winning all 10 of their individual contests and Wilhelm Steenkamp losing just one from nine, the Force have made a statement in 2014.

Nathan Charles is the third-best hooker in the competition with 38 successful throws for a 93 per cent success rate, placing him behind only the Bulls' Callie Visagie and Adriaan Strauss from the Cheetahs.

It is no coincidence that the improvement has come with the arrival of marquee signing, South African second-rower Steenkamp, and the fact the Force have added the rolling maul to their armoury.

Steenkamp is well aware that the side needs to control the set piece and maul against reigning champions the Chiefs at nib Stadium on Saturday night, particularly after losing in-form No.8 Ben McCalman, who was yesterday suspended for a lifting tackle on prop Kane Hames in the win against the Highlanders

"At the moment the line-outs work very well for us," Steenkamp said.

"We put a lot of effort in on our strategies, how we are going to approach each weekend, analyse the opponents' line-outs and how we are going to defend it.

"It is going well at the moment but it is a new week, a new challenge against the Chiefs."

Coach Michael Foley said during the pre-season that it would have been "silly" to ignore the mauling knowledge Steenkamp brought from the Pretoria-based Bulls.

"I like mauling," Steenkamp said. "Being at the Bulls, mauling is 80 per cent of their game. I'm very comfortable with the aspect of the game.

"It is a thing we worked hard on in the pre-season, it has paid dividends in the last two weeks for us."

Successive wins against the Melbourne Rebels and Highlanders moved the Force to equal sixth on the ladder, but Steenkamp said they were still focused.

"We are not thinking about play-offs or anything like that. We are not going to get ahead of ourselves," he said.

The West Australian

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