Preview: Stormers v Western Force
Basement dwellers the Stormers face another daunting challenge when they host the Western Force in Cape Town on Saturday.
With just three victories from 11 matches, the home side, who are the tournament's bottom-placed team, head into this match as the underdogs against fifth-placed Force, who are brimming with confidence after beating the Cheetahs last weekend.
The Stormers' campaign has been ravaged by injuries with regular skipper Jean de Villiers amongst a long list of players who have been declared unfit to participate in this clash.
Coach Allister Coetzee also seems to be a man at odds with himself. The Stormers have earned a reputation for their defensive style of play, under his guidance, in recent seasons but, after suferring numerous defeats earlier this year, they have played more adventurously in recent weeks.
His decision to drop fly-half Kurt Coleman, who impressed on attack in last weekend's 28-12 loss to the Bulls in Pretoria, in favour of veteran pivot Peter Grant was a surprise, however, and indicates that the men from the Cape could be reverting to their more conservative game-plan again.
Coetzee explained that the Force had a powerful kicking game and Grant could help to counter that threat but also said he felt it "was the right thing to do" to pick the 29-year-old in the starting line-up as it will be his 100th game for the Stormers.
Stand-in skipper Schalk Burger said the Force's kicking game was a major consideration in the side's preparation this week.
"The Force play much like South African sides and they bring a big kicking game to Newlands," he explained.
"We battled with the Bulls' kicking game last week and as a result we battled to exit our half. It's something that we will be prepared for this week."
The Force's 23-16 victory in Bloemfontein last weekend was an historic result as it was their first triumph on South African soil since March 2011.
They've only once returned back to Perth unbeaten in South Africa and that was in 2007, so the Force will have something big to play for. A victory, this weekend, will also be a momentous one for the Force as it will be their eight of the season which will be a new franchise record for wins in a season.
Much has been said about the South African influence on the Force this season and with Sias Ebersohn and former Stormers utility back Marcel Brache in the visitors' starting line-up, and Wilhelm Steenkamp and Brynard Stander amongst the replacements.
Each of those players have added value to the Force's cause but another shrewd move by the Perth-based team was the recruitment of two South Africans to their coaching staff.
Senior assistant coach David Wessels and back-line coach Kevin Foote were promoted to their current positions after serving as defensive consultants with the Force in 2013.
Foote is a former Varsity Cup winning coach in South Africa with the University of Cape Town and Wessels worked as a defence consultant with the same side.
Like Brache, the duo will be highly motivated upon their return to Cape Town. Last weekend's victory over the Cheetahs has boosted the Force's confidence and head coach Michael Foley wants them to build on that effort but expects a tough battle.
"It was great to see the boys pressure the Cheetahs through hard work, and to then capitalise on the chances that came our way," he said.
"The Stormers have been one of the best defensive units in the competition for a number of years. As a consequence, our work on and off the ball will have to be first class on Saturday to get results."
Form: After suffering a 22-16 loss to the Rebels in Melbourne in Round 10 - which brought a five-match winning streak to an end - the Western Force struck back with a narrow victory over the Bulls in Perth. They followed that up with 23-16 triumph over the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein last weekend. The Stormers battled during the early rounds and have had a mixed bag of results in recent weeks. They beat the Lions in Round 10 but lost to the Cheetahs in their next match before returning to the victory trail against the Highlanders, but then lost to the Bulls in Pretoria last weekend. In nine previous matches between these sides, the Stormers have won seven and the Force two. The average score is 24-17 in favour of the Stormers.
2012: Stormers won 17-3 in Perth
2011: Stormers won 51-16 in Cape Town
2010: Western Force won 16-15 in Perth
2009: Stormers won 25-24 in Cape Town
Prediction: The visitors are on a high, after last weekend's impressive performance in Bloemfontein, and should get the better of their hosts. It won't be easy but the Force will win by three points!
Stormers: 15 Jaco Taute, 14 Kobus van Wyk, 13 Juan de Jongh, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Cheslin Kolbe, 10 Peter Grant, 9 Nic Groom, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Schalk Burger (c), 6 Nizaam Carr, 5 Ruan Botha, 4 Michael Rhodes, 3 Pat Cilliers, 2 Deon Fourie, 1 Brok Harris.
Replacements: 16 Stephan Coetzee, 17 Alistair Vermaak, 18 Martin Dreyer, 19 Jean Kleyn, 20 Siya Kolisi, 21 Dylon Frylinck, 22 Kurt Coleman, 23 Michael van der Spuy.
Western Force: 15 Jayden Hayward, 14 Marcel Brache, 13 Chris Tuatara-Morrison, 12 Luke Burton, 11 Nick Cummins, 10 Sias Ebersohn, 9 Ian Prior, 8 Ben McCalman, 7 Matt Hodgson (c), 6 Angus Cottrell, 5 Adam Coleman, 4 Sam Wykes, 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 Patrick Dellit.
Date: Saturday, May 17
Kick-off: 17:05 local (16:05 BST, 15:05 GMT)
Venue: Newlands Stadium, Cape Town
Referee: Chris Pollock (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Marius Jonker (South Africa), Quinton Immelman (South Africa)
Television match official: Shaun Veldsman (South Africa)