The Western Force are determined to finish their season on a winning note and notch a first ever victory in Durban, when they tackle the in-form Sharks on Friday.
Rugby 365 reports that coach John Mitchell has recalled Pek Cowan and Ben Whittaker to the front row, while Ben McCalman’s brute force has been added at lock for a match the West Australian’s expect will be played with plenty of physicality.
“We’re coming up against what we feel will be a physical pack and a physical game of rugby,” Mitchell said.
“Not only do we have to meet that head on but also find a way to outsmart them.
“This is probably the strongest mix that we can put together based on what we have seen throughout the year,” Mitchell added.
Scrumhalf Brett Sheehan also returns to a squad that Mitchell is confident will rebound from the disappointing performance against the Cheetahs last Saturday in Bloemfontein.
The Force have won four of their past six matches and have shown they can respond positively after a loss as they did when they comprehensively defeated the Crusaders in Round 11 after going down to the Blues a week earlier.
“I’ve got no doubt that this group will get up this weekend and put our best foot forward against the Sharks,” said Mitchell.
“I guess the frustrating aspect is the trend where we drop off now and again but in saying that common sense needs to prevail. Since the Reds match, if you draw a line underneath that, this group has hung tough and played some good football.”
It won’t be easy for the Force with the Sharks enjoying a run that has seen them win six of their past seven matches.
The South African’s enjoying a superb second half of the season and disposed of their high flying countrymen, the Stormers, in Durban last week and will again be on the attack at home.
“It’s the only South African venue in our short history that we haven’t nailed so there is a challenge there,” Mitchell said.
“Being our last game you have to take the performance into the remainder of the winter and into the next pre-season. It is important to finish on a high. Losing or coming close is not an option.”
Western Force: 15 James O’Connor, 14 Nick Cummins, 13 Mitch Inman, 12 Ryan Cross, 11 Cameron Shepherd, 10 David Hill, 9 Brett Sheehan, 8 Richard Brown, 7 David Pocock, 6 Matt Hodgson, 5 Nathan Sharpe (captain), 4 Ben McCalman, 3 Tim Fairbrother, 2 Ben Whittaker, 1 Pek Cowan.
Replacements: 16 Nathan Charles, 17 Matt Dunning, 18 Sam Wykes, 19 Tom Hockings, 20 Justin Turner, 21 Sam Harris, 22 Mark Bartholomeusz.
Date: Friday, May 14
Venue: Absa Stadium, Durban
Kick-off: 19.10 (17.10 GMT)
Referee: Pro Legoete (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Mark Lawrence (South Africa), Marc van Zyl (South Africa)
TMO: Shaun Veldsman (South Africa)