Force aiming to bust open the Highlanders
March 14, 2014
Michael Foley has plans to exploit the Highlanders' weaknesses © Getty Images
After obliterating Melbourne Rebels' defensive structures last week, the Western Force will be aiming to inflict more tackle-breaking damage in Saturday's Super Rugby clash with the Highlanders in Dunedin.
The Force scored four tries inside the opening 27 minutes in the 32-7 win over the Rebels, with the dominant performance giving the Perth-based franchise a crucial confidence boost. The Highlanders have been solid in their opening two games, posting a 29-21 win over the Blues before being pipped by the mighty Chiefs 21-19 a fortnight ago. A week off has left them fresh and raring to go heading into their home clash with the Force.
But their league-high average of 22.5 missed tackles per game is a worry, with scrum-half Aaron Smith committing seven of those across two games. Force coach Michael Foley has identified several vulnerable areas in the Highlanders' defence, but says his team need to be good enough to expose them.
"There are a couple of players who have missed tackles for them. The job for us is to get good enough quality ball," Foley said on Friday. "One of the important things is we keep the ball moving up the field. Sometimes stats can tell lies. You have to look at why they've missed tackles. Sometimes they've missed tackles while they're covering someone else who has missed tackles. But there are a couple of targets, as there are in any other team."
Another stat favouring the Force is their five-game winning streak against the Highlanders. However, Foley remains wary of Jamie Joseph's hard-nosed side, which is renowned for its tough work at the breakdown but also boasts good quality out wide. Fullback Ben Smith looms as one of the Force's biggest threats.
"Ben is an excellent broken field runner," Foley said of the All Blacks star. There are times in the game where you've got to kick. If you don't chase your kicks well and you don't defend well, you will get punished."
The Force have named an unchanged line-up, with lock Hugh McMeniman not needed after Adam Coleman's impressive performance off the bench last week. McMeniman, who missed the Rebels clash due to a neck injury, is likely to return for next week's showdown against the Chiefs.
Greg Growden and Russell Barwick preview Super Rugby round five, including the Highlanders against Force