The Western Force will aim to continue their title-winning National Rugby Championship form when they face the Malaysia Valke in their Global Rapid Rugby opener in Perth.
The home side secured the NRC crown last October with a 41-3 win over the Canberra Vikings after winning six of their seven pool games en-route to the final.
Although Global Rapid Rugby presents a more intense challenge, the Force’s solid run of good results in Perth in recent seasons will be a huge motivating factor too.
History also favours the hosts who secured an emphatic 74-10 win over the Valke in their previous meeting during the Rapid Rugby Showcase series in August last year. On that occasion, they ran in 10 tries, including two Power tries.
Although ten players from the 2019 Valke squad will return to Perth for Saturday’s clash, the Valke will definitely be a different prospect off the back of a strong 2019 season in South Africa’s Currie Cup First Division.
The Valke lost just two pool games from seven starts on their way to a fourth-place finish and a semi-final showdown with eventual champions, the Jaguares XV. In the semi-finals, the Valke put in a spirited performance, narrowly going down 29-37 to a talented Argentine combination.
Force coach Tim Sampson is happy with his team’s preparations – which has included two successful warm-up matches – but is wary of the challenge the Valke will present.
“The Valke will be a tough prospect. They have a talented and experienced squad that is well-coached,” Sampson said.
“We will have to work hard, limit mistakes and impose ourselves on the game from the get-go.”
Valke Director of Rugby, Rudy Joubert describes the clash as “a very tough opener”.
“The Rapid Rugby laws are suited to high-pace rugby and we want use this to our advantage. We want to play an innovative running game but will also focus on laying a solid foundation with our set-pieces and defence,” Joubert said.
Western Force: 1 Angus Wagner, 2 Feleti Kaitu’u, 3 Kieran Longbottom, 4 Johan Bardoul, 5 Fergus Lee-Warner, 6 Henry Stowers, 7 Chris Alcock, 8 Brynard Stander, 9 Ian Prior (c), 10 AJ Alatimu,
11 Brad Lacey, 12 Henry Taefu, 13 Marcel Brache, 14 Byron Ralston, 15 Jack McGregor. Bench: 16 Andrew Ready, 17 Chris Heiberg, 18 Tom Sheminant, 19 Ben Grant, 20 Tevin Ferris, 21 Jacob Abel, 22 Grason Makara, 23 Jake Strachan.
Malaysia Valke: 1 Luxolo Koza,2 Robey Leibrandt,3 Primo Ncube,4 Andrew Volschenk,5 Jacques Alberts,6 Cody Basson,7 Boela Venter,8 Friedle Olivier, 9 Zee Mkhabela,10 Divan Nel,11 Ezrick Alexander,12 Andries Truter,13 Valentino Wellman,14 Coert Cronjé,15 Errol Jaggers . Bench: 16 Tiaan van der Merwe,17 Qhama Hina,18 Heinrich Roelfse,19 Dwayne Pienaar,20 Thabo Mabuza,21 Johan Pretorius,22 Lundi Ralarala,23 Hardus Pretorius.