The Western Force today announces the 23-player team list to face the Cheetahs in the opening contest of the four-game Toyota Challenge from 11pm WST Friday night in Bloemfontein.
New recruits Lopeti Faifua and Harry Potter will suit up for the first time in Force colours, although caps will not be officially handed out in the series.
Scrum-half Henry Robertson will return for the first time at this level since suffering a long-term knee injury, while Fortescue Academy pair Tiaan Tauakipulu and Ronan Leahy have been named to start.
Fortescue Premier Grade players Ford Hemi (West Scarborough), Regi Churchward (UWA), Fa'amanu Kalolo (Perth Bayswater), Jack Grooby (Palmyra) and Gio Leituala (Cottesloe) have all been named on the bench.
The Toyota Challenge series opener will mark the first time the Force and Cheetahs have met since 2016 in Super Rugby. In their 10 Super Rugby encounters, both teams have won five times. Both teams joined Super Rugby in 2006.
More recently, the Cheetahs were crowned the premiers of the 2023 Currie Cup – South Africa’s top domestic rugby competition, subsequently earning qualification for Europe’s EPCR Challenge Cup in 2023-24.
Cheetahs coach Hawrie Fourie has named his 23-player team for game one, including veteran former Springbok Ruan Pienaar at fly-half and 2023 Currie Cup joint leading try scorer Gideon van der Merwe.
Force head coach Simon Cron said: “The main aim of the tour is to give our wider squad opportunities to play more rugby and to give some standout club and Academy players exposure to a higher level of rugby.
“On this tour we can trial some new combinations within the squad. We also get to give some players a test at a higher level of rugby so we can get a good understanding of where they are in their development.”
Western Force Team
Marley Pearce, Tom Horton, Tiaan Tauakipulu, Joshua Thompson, Lopeti Faifua, Donny Freeman, Carlo Tizzano, Jeremy Williams, Henry Robertson, Max Burey, Ronan Leahy, Bayley Kuenzle, Sam Spink, George Poolman, Harry Potter; Ford Hemi, Angus Wagner, Regi Churchward, Jackson Pugh, Fa’amanu Kalolo, Jack Grooby, Reesjan Pasitoa, Gio Leituala
Cheetahs vs Western Force
Toyota Stadium, Bloemfontein
Friday 25 August 11pm AWST/5pm SA time
Live on Stan Sport (Aus) & SuperSport (SA)
Follow our social media channels for updates @WesternForce
Referees: Morne Ferreira, Paul Mente, Griffin Colby, Quinton Immelman (TMO), Marius van der Westhuizen (split screen)
Game 1, Toyota Stadium, Bloemfontein, Friday 25 August 11pm AWST
Game 2, Toyota Stadium, Bloemfontein, Saturday 2 September 9pm AWST
Game 3, Lane Group Stadium, Mandurah, Friday 29 September 7pm AWST
Game 4, Revo Fitness Stadium, Claremont, Saturday 7 October 3pm AWST
Game 3-4 Ticket Details
Tickets to the final two games in Mandurah and Claremont can be purchased with your 2024 Force Membership for an added $20. Tickets will also become available in a few weeks through Ticketmaster for non-members, valued at $15 per game, with $20 tickets available at the gate on game day.