Western Force need to defy history to keep their Super Rugby Pacific finals hopes alive in Saturday’s clash with powerhouse side Crusaders at HBF Park.
They have not beaten the Crusaders in six of their last seven games, including the last four.
And they need to end a seven-game home losing streak, their longest without a win since 10 games that spanned the 2015 and 2016 seasons.
Coach Tim Sampson has been forced to make several changes to the side that let a win against table-topping Blues slip through their fingers last weekend.
Openside flanker Ollie Callan replaces Kane Koteka, who is out for the rest of the season after injuring a foot against the Blues, with Tim Anstee moving from the bench to No.8.
Winger Toni Pulu has a hamstring problem and is replaced by Byron Ralston with Jake McIntyre taking his spot in the reserves.
Prop Angus Wagner has recovered from a pre-season hamstring injury and starts on the bench at the expense of veteran Greg Holmes.
Both teams will be looking to make amends after the Force lost 22-18 – their fifth defeat by less than a converted try this season – and the Crusaders’ surprise 24-21 defeat by the Waratahs, their second loss in three games.
The Crusaders have not had back-to-back losses for four seasons and Sampson said: “They’ll be stinging but so are we.
“You’ll see two teams desperate for a win.
“We should have won that last game. It was one that got away.
“Another close loss, that’s what disappoints us. We lost rather than the opposition won”.
One area the Force will target is the Crusaders’ line-out where they have stolen 19 balls this season, four more than any other team and seven more than the Kiwis.
The Crusaders’ tall timber is depleted with second-rower Hamish Dalzell on a three-match ban for a dangerous tackle against the Waratahs.
Captain Scott Barrett is also suspended, Mitchell Dunshea and Quinten Strange are injured and a late decision will be made on Zach Gallagher.
Sampson said the defensive line out was an area the forwards took pride in.
“Defensive line-outs is a strength of ours, they work hard on it and they are getting their reward,” he said.
“Regardless of the opposition we like to create a bit of havoc there.”
The Force have taken plenty from the way the Waratahs went about their win.
“Their speed and defence caught the Crusaders napping,” Sampson said.
“They slowed their ball a fair bit through good tackling technique.
“The Crusaders like to chance their arm early so we’ve got to expect anything.
“We have to stay patient and be confident with how we build. You can’t turn over cheap possession.
“Kick strategy and field position is very important.
“Where you kick and who you target in kick return and counter attack is crucial.”
Force starting side: 1 Tom Robertson, 2 Feleti Kaitu’u, 3 Santiago Medrano, 4 Ryan McCauley, 5 Izack Rodda, 6 Fergus Lee-Warner, 7 Ollie Callan, 8 Tim Anstee, 9 Issak Fines-Leleiwasa, 10 Reesjan Pasitoa, 11 Manasa Mataele, 12 Bayley Kuenzle, 13 Kyle Godwin, 14 Byron Ralston, 15 Jake Strachan. Reserves: 16 Andrew Ready, 17 Bo Abra, 18 Angus Wagner, 19 Jeremy Thrush, 20 , Alex Masibaka, 21, 22 Ian Prior, 22 Jake McIntyre, 23 Richard Kahui.