The Melbourne Rebels will take on the Western Force for the second time this season. The Force have been one of the biggest improvers in Super Rugby this season, so it's going to be another tricky task for the Rebels once again. We know a bit more about the Force than last time, but what exactly?
Having a look at their season so far, it would be an understatement to say the Western Force have taken some big strides forward in 2014. Losing their first two games of the season to the Waratahs and the Brumbies, it was in fact the win against the Rebels in round 4 which kick-started their amazing winning streak. A crushing 25-point victory that night was followed up by an away victory in Otago against the Highlanders a week later, and then an inspiring 3-point victory against the reigning Super Rugby champions, the Chiefs, in round 6.
Their last two games have both been against Australian opponents; firstly against the Reds in a climatic finish to the game where Jayden Hayward scored a try in the last two minutes and converted truthfully to secure another 3-point victory, and then against the Waratahs where they avenged their round 2 loss and blew them away with a 12-point win; a hat-trick of tries to "The Honey Badger", Nick Cummins, capping off the night.
It's been five wins in a row for the Force, and they are, without question, the in-form team in the competition right now.
Equal third in the competition for tries with 20 (only two behind the leaders), the Force are surprisingly low in the rankings when it comes to carries, total metres and defenders beaten, highlighting their ability to let their opponents maintain possession, but jump on the opportunity when a fumble is made to turn it over.
Nick Cummins' hat-trick last week rockets him up into the top four try-scorers of the season, while captain Matt Hodgson is the competitions equal-leading tackler with 104 in total.
Who to watch:
There have been some big standout players for the Force this season, but no doubt one of the most dangerous men in the team is winger Nick Cummins. The larrikin winger is an opportunity taker and quick on his feet, as shown last week when two of his three tries were from intercepts, and both involved running almost the length of the field to find the line. He ran 192 metres last week and has 396 metres for the season -- scary thought. He's a tough tackler in defence, too, so the Rebels will want to keep and eye on him even without the ball.
Matt Hodgson and Ben McCalman at no.7 and no.8 respectively will be ones to keep an eye on. Both men are uncompromising in defence. As shown above, Hodgson leads the competition in tackles made, and Ben McCalman is Scott Higginbothams counterpart when it comes to importance around the ground.
Sias Ebersohn, in just his second season with the Force since moving from the Cheetahs, has been a key part to the Force outfit. 68 points for the season so far and a reliable flyhalf, it will be a battle between he and Rebel fullback Jason Woodward to see who has the super-est of superboots for the two sides.
Kyle Godwin has had an impressive season, as well. The 21 year-old Perth local has made 80 tackles this season to put himself inside the top 10 tacklers for the year, and one of the more prolific defensive centres and is being touted as a future star.
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