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Super Rugby preview: Western Force v Bulls
The South African stretch of the Western Force's Super Rugby season starts on Saturday when they host an out-of-sorts Bulls outfit in Perth.
The Bulls have lost their last three matches and will be desperate to win at least once before returning to South Africa.
Ahead of their tour to the Republic and having lost seven of their last eight encounters against South African opposition, the Force would have put greater emphasis on aspects like their physical approach and structure at set-phase, although their recent form at home would suggest that Michael Foley has struck the right balance in his squad to achieve victory over just about any team.
The Force welcomed back full-back Jayden Hayward and lock Sam Wykes, but winger Luke Morahan and scrum-half Alby Mathewson have yet to recover from injury.
The absence of Mathewson in particular, could play in to the hands of the Bulls who will have Springbok Francois Hougaard back at his post after he spent some time out on the wing while Akona Ndungane was out injured.
In another boost to the Bulls backline, full-back Jurgen Visser returns to the fold after watching his team's loss to the Waratahs from the sidelines.
The Bulls will have to complete this one without skipper Flip van der Merwe who is serving a three-match suspension for foul play.
But that should be an unsettling factor as they seemingly have an ending supply of world class second-rowers to pick from.
One such lock who recently decided to seek greener pastures is Wilhelm Steenkamp and he will start from the bench for the Force this week.
Western Force: 15 Jayden Hayward, 14 Dane Haylett-Petty, 13 Marcel Brache, 12 Kyle Godwin, 11 Nick Cummins, 10 Sias Ebersohn, 9 Ian Prior, 8 Ben McCalman, 7 Matt Hodgson (captain), 6 Angus Cottrell, 5 Sam Wykes, 4 Adam Coleman, 3 Kieran Longbottom, 2 Nathan Charles, 1 Pek Cowan.
Replacements:16 Heath Tessmann, 17 Tetera Faulkner, 18 Ollie Hoskins, 19 Wilhelm Steenkamp, 20 Brynard Stander, 21 Justin Turner, 22 Zack Holmes, 23 Chris Tuatara-Morrison.
Bulls: 15 Jurgen Visser, 14 Akona Ndungane, 13 JJ Engelbrecht, 12 Jan Serfontein, 11 Bjorn Basson, 10 Jacques-Louis Potgieter, 9 Francois Hougaard, 8 Grant Hattingh, 7 Jacques du Plessis, 6 Jono Ross, 5 Victor Matfield (captain), 4 Paul Willemse, 3 Werner Kruger, 2 Bongi Mbonambi, 1 Dean Greyling
Replacements:16 Bandise Maku, 17 Morné Mellett, 18 Marcel van der Merwe, 19 Wimpie van der Walt, 20 Jacques Engelbrecht, 21 Rudy Paige, 22 Handré Pollard, 23 Ulrich Beyers.
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|Friday 13th February|
|06:35||Crusaders vs Melbourne Rebels|
|08:40||Brumbies vs Reds|
|17:10||Lions vs Hurricanes|
|Saturday 14th February|
|06:35||Blues vs Chiefs|
|15:05||Sharks vs Cheetahs|
|17:05||Bulls vs Stormers|
|Sunday 15th February|
|06:05||Waratahs vs Western Force|
|Friday 20th February|
|06:35||Chiefs vs Brumbies|
|08:40||Melbourne Rebels vs Waratahs|
|17:10||Bulls vs Hurricanes|
|Saturday 21st February|
|06:35||Highlanders vs Crusaders|
|08:40||Reds vs Western Force|
|15:05||Stormers vs Blues|
|17:10||Sharks vs Lions|
|Friday 27th February|
|06:35||Highlanders vs Reds|
|11:00||Western Force vs Hurricanes|
|17:10||Cheetahs vs Blues|
|Saturday 28th February|
|06:35||Chiefs vs Crusaders|
|08:40||Melbourne Rebels vs Brumbies|
|15:05||Bulls vs Sharks|
|17:10||Lions vs Stormers|
|Friday 6th March|
|06:35||Chiefs vs Highlanders|
|08:40||Brumbies vs Western Force|
|Saturday 7th March|
|06:35||Blues vs Lions|
|08:40||Reds vs Waratahs|
Read the thoughts and opinions of Phil Edwards with skysports.com