Force shed ‘no name brand’ tag

It took John Mitchell’s Western Force team just one season to shed their tag as a “no name brand” and now they can look forward to recording some more memorable wins – such as their impressive 30-27 triumph over the Bulls in Pretoria last Friday.

In their debut season in 2006 the Force managed just one win – against the Cheetahs in Round 13 – and two draws, against the champion Crusaders and the Cats.

But they still finished last on the standings.

Their campaign in 2007 got off to a stuttering start, a painful 8-7 loss to the Highlanders in Perth.

But there were a few hints of what was to come.

On their tour of South Africa they effectively dealt with the hapless Stormers in Cape Town, before finally announcing their “arrival” on the scene as genuine contenders when they beat the Bulls at Loftus Versfeld last Friday.

While many people outside Perth (maybe there were still a few doubters in Perth as well) regarded the win as a big surprise, Bulls coach Heyneke Meyer said there is definitely more to come from the Force.

An obviously disappointed Meyer, who still has ambitions of his team making the play-offs, said he expected the Force to come good at some stage.

“I said last week, before our game against them, that this [Force] team is not as bad as people say,” Meyer told this website.

“They are very underrated as a unit and as individuals and they are still going to topple a few more big guns this year,” he added.

“Yes, we were in a position to win and we wasted a few opportunities, but that doesn’t take away from what the Force achieved.”

Meyer, as he did in an interview last week, again pointed to world class backs such as Matt Giteau, Matt Henjak, Drew Mitchell, Junior Pelesasa, Scott Staniforth and last week’s Man of the Match Cameron Shepherd as reasons why this is no ordinary team.

The team also has seasoned players like Brendan Cannon, Scott Fava (who did not play against the Bulls) and Nathan Sharpe in a pack that more than stood its ground against the Bulls.

But it is the backline that, according to Meyer, is what is going to set the Force apart from some of its rivals this year.

“This certainly is not a ‘no name brand’ team anymore,” the Bulls coach added.

By Jan de Koning 365 Digital

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