Force attacks coach Ozich says 'we're up for big challenge' against Blues

Mon, Apr 1, 2024, 8:00 PM
by Ben Somerford
Western Force attacks coach Mark Ozich spoke to reporters ahead of the Round 7 clash in Auckland away to the Blues.

Western Force attacks coach Mark Ozich says the mood within the playing group is positive and says they are up for the “big challenge” of Friday’s clash with the second-placed Blues.

The Force flew into Auckland on Saturday evening ahead of Friday’s game which starts at 2:05pm WST, after going down 31-13 to the Fijian Drua in driving rain in Lautoka in Round 6.

Saturday’s loss to the Drua left the Force in 12th with a 1-5 win-loss record, but Ozich said they’d moved on to focus on the Blues’ test.

“Obviously it was tough over there in Fiji, disappointing in terms of not getting the result,” Ozich told reporters.

“We’ve bounced back and I think the mood, by and large, is pretty positive about moving on to the Blues and the next challenge. Definitely a tough one in Fiji.

“We had a good plan going into that game. As the rain came in the day before, it rained for 24 hours there, we’ve spent three months in Perth and there hasn’t been any rain.

“We were confident with our plan. We talked about it today around our skill execution in those conditions, we struggled to play territory, we struggled to execute our set piece. They executed much better than us more often in those conditions.

“Obviously changing direction, set piece and that foundation of scrum, it was difficult for us. There’s a whole lot of learnings in that.”

The Blues appear to be one of the Super Rugby Pacific title contenders, sitting second with a 5-1 win-loss record following a strong 47-8 victory over Moana Pasifika.

Ozich said the squad had been determined to take lessons from Fiji and remain positive in preparation for Friday’s game at Eden Park.

“That’s the challenge in coaching, there’s an art and a science to it,” Ozich said. “It was difficult in those conditions to play we wanted to play.

“We’ve got to move on and stay positive. We had a good review today. We found some of the gold nuggets and took the learnings and put a plan together to go into Friday night against the Blues.

“Now it’s about, ‘ok, we take the learnings, acknowledge some of the things we got wrong but now it’s about building some momentum through this week’. We’ve got a new challenge. The Blues is a good challenge for us. It’s a big challenge but we’re up for it.”

Ozich, who has personal connections with Blues assistant coaches Craig McGrath and Paul Tito, pointed to their physical style along with their kicking game, headlined by fly-half Stephen Perofeta plus outside backs Caleb Clarke and Mark Telea.

“We’ve been tracking the Blues,” he said. “It’s clear they’re a powerful explosive team.

“We’re going to have to be on our game and those collisions, those first-up tackles. If our defence can stop their gain line and we can frustrate them, hopefully that’ll flow on to the attacking side of the ball.

“The big thing is to stop their go-forward on a physical space. Secondary to that is their kicking game with the likes of Perofeta, and their outside backs Caleb Clarke and Telea, they’re good in the air, they kick a lot so we’re going to have to be good in the air and negate some of that high ball they put in behind.

“It’s a big challenge. It’s going to be a physical one on Friday night, so we’ve got to get that right if we’re any chance to upset them.”

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