Shepherd blow for Force
February 20, 2008
Western Force have been dealt a blow on the eve of their Super 14 clash with the Cheetahs with an injury to fullback Cameron Shepherd.
Force coach John Mitchell will have to do without the services of Shepherd for the Bloemfontein clash after he suffered a knee ligament strain in training this morning.
The news follows the loss of scrum-half Matt Henjak who was forced to return home to Australia to attend a RugbyWA disciplinary hearing.
Mitchell's men will face a Cheetahs outfit desperate to make amends for last weekend's shock season-opening loss to the Lions.
The Perth-based team also has to contend with the loss of fullback Cameron Shepherd, who was ruled out this morning with a knee ligament strain.
Drew Mitchell will raise a half century of Super Rugby caps and will return to the position he played for the majority of the 2007 season in Shepherd's absence.
The change prompted a re-shuffle of the backline, with Scott Staniforth and Ryan Cross sliding out one position to outside centre and wing respectively, while Scott Daruda moves from the bench to inside centre.
Former Brisbane-based boilermaker James Stannard will make his run on debut at scrumhalf after a 15-minute cameo from the reserves bench in his Super 14 debut against the Sharks in Durban last Friday.
The No.9, who goes by the nickname 'Chucky', has extra reason to celebrate this week with his 25th birthday occurring the day before his starting debut.
Mitchell has also tinkered with his forward pack, selecting a rookie blindside flanker and a new-look front row.
Australian Under 19 star Sam Wykes will make his Investec Super 14 debut in the number six jersey, while another relative rookie, Pek Cowan, will make his starting XV debut at loosehead prop.
Troy Takiari replaces AJ Whalley at tighthead prop, while rookie lock Tom Hockings has edged out David Pusey to retain his place in the second row alongside Captain Nathan Sharpe.
Mitchell has provided plenty of cover for his big men, naming five forwards on the reserves bench.
Former Brumbies flanker Tamaiti Horua will make his debut appearance for his new club, after gaining a release from Japanese club Toyota last week.
Horua, whose last appearance for the Brumbies came prior to the expansion of Super Rugby in 2005, will celebrate his return to Australian Rugby alongside a resurgent Lachlan MacKay.
MacKay has managed just three appearances for the Emirates Western Force since joining the team for its debut season in 2006, spending the majority of the past two years rehabilitating from various leg injuries.
Mitchell said he had always planned to mix up his team selections during the three-week South Africa tour.
"We had a plan for every member of the touring squad to play football on this tour and we're sticking to that plan," said Mitchell.
"Obviously with Matt (Henjak) returning for the tribunal we were left with one less back in the squad for this match so we've had to go with five forwards on the bench," he said.