Explosive backrower Brynard Stander will make a return to the starting XV as the Western Force’s only change for Saturday’s NRC Grand Final against the Canberra Vikings.
Last season’s Best and Fairest, Stander will join the run-on side for the first team in three weeks having fully recovered from a knee injury. Nicknamed the ‘Bull’, he is sure to make his presence felt early in the match.
“Brynard came off the bench last week and contributed really well and having his experience and quality coming back into the starting side is of huge benefit,” Coach Tim Sampson said.
“Tevin Ferris goes back to the bench but I think Tevin was outstanding last week. Our backrow was the point of difference last weekend and Tevin was amongst that. He will add a lot coming on in the second half.”
Sampson is aiming for stability in the NRC decider with a starting forward pack that has only featured one change in the last three fixtures.
“It is important to have cohesion in back-to-back games. In the middle we were a bit banged up in terms of week-to-week selections and had to shuffle things around a bit but the last couple of games we have been fortunate enough to roll out pretty much the same matchday 23,” Sampson explained.
Late-season injuries to captain Ian Prior, Johan Bardoul and Chris Alcock mean the three regular starters are unavailable for selection.
The head coach has opted for dependability in the backs with lightning scrum-half Issak Fines continuing his stellar partnership with fill-in captain Andrew Deegan.
Centre Pama Fou retains his place alongside Nick Jooste after scoring two intercept tries last weekend while wingers Byron Ralston and Jonah Placid are currently first and second on the try-scoring ladder.
Sampson is keen for his side to focus on its own game plan heading into the final match of the season against a Canberra side that finished the qualifying rounds in second position.
“The Vikings found their groove and have obviously been playing consistently well through the back end of the tournament. I think to have three home games in a row for the last three rounds and then a semi-final has been beneficial for them,” Sampson said.
“They have quality across the board with a lot of Super Rugby contracted players and a lot of Wallaby players who were on the fringes this year.
“But we focus on what we can control and what we want to get out of this game and do well. Consistency is important and I know the guys are chomping at the bit to get out there.”