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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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|Waratahs 33 - 32 Crusaders|
|Saturday 26th July|
|Waratahs 26 - 8 Brumbies|
|Crusaders 38 - 6 Sharks|
|Saturday 19th July|
|Sharks 31 - 27 Highlanders|
|Brumbies 32 - 30 Chiefs|
|Saturday 12th July|
|Stormers 10 - 34 Sharks|
|Lions 60 - 25 Cheetahs|
|Reds 3 - 34 Waratahs|
|Crusaders 34 - 8 Highlanders|
|Friday 11th July|
|Bulls 40 - 7 Melbourne Rebels|
|Brumbies 47 - 25 Western Force|
|Blues 8 - 11 Chiefs|
|Sunday 6th July|
|Waratahs 44 - 16 Highlanders|
|Saturday 5th July|
|Cheetahs 27 - 20 Sharks|
|Stormers 16 - 0 Bulls|
|Western Force 30 - 20 Reds|
|Crusaders 21 - 13 Blues|
|Friday 4th July|
|Lions 34 - 17 Melbourne Rebels|
|Chiefs 24 - 16 Hurricanes|
Read the thoughts and opinions of Phil Edwards with skysports.com