Global Rapid Rugby will bring its unique match day experience and free-running philosophy to Brisbane for the first time when Kagifa Samoa play host to the Western Force at Ballymore on Saturday afternoon.
The game is the penultimate clash in the Pacific Showcase and will have a major bearing on the race to the series crown. The Western Force are tied with Fijian Latui at the top of the table but have a match in hand. While their opponents this week, Kagifa Samoa, are out of the running for the title, a win over the Force will heap pressure on the West Aussies ahead of their final match against Fiji in a week’s time.
Kagifa Samoa needs no extra motivation however as they look to get one back on the Force. It is fair to say that the Pacific islanders were taught a lesson in precision execution the last time these sides met, however, the lopsided scoreline didn’t reflect the effort and opportunities the Samoan side created.
Head Coach Semo Sititi has been able to retain a relatively stable starting XV which will assist in the side’s ability to create chemistry. The bulk of the players have now played at least a few games together and will be buoyed by a stirring fightback last weekend in New Zealand that saw them fall just six points short of Fijian Latui. Hooker JP Sauni was a standout in that match as the front row general and his battle with Force rake Feleti Kaitu’u will be one to watch. Both players love getting physical, but also have an eye for the try line and will be keen to assert their dominance for their respective sides.
Injury hasn’t been kind to the Samoans, for the second week running Sititi has had to bring in a new flyhalf. Fortunately, they’ve been able to find a ready replacement with Sheldon Tarawa drafted from the Fortescue Premier Grade in Western Australia. Tarawa has been a standout for his side Joondalup Brothers and previously played for the Perth Spirit in the National Rugby Championship.
He will be ably assisted in the playmaking role by scrumhalf and skipper Leon Fukofuka who has been a shining light for Kagifa Samoa throughout the series. Fukofuka and his opposite number, Issak Fines, control the tempo of their sides with aplomb and it will be another great contest for fans to look out for on Saturday. Fines has stepped up in the absence of regular Force halfback Ian Prior and has been making the most of the extra minutes on the park. He scored two tries and was a constant thorn in the side of Kagifa Samoa last time out.
The Force have added experience to their run on side with 2018 Nathan Sharpe Medallist Brynard Stander giving grunt to the forwards, while Queensland born speedster Rod Davies will start on the wing. Davies earned his stripes as a youngster playing at Ballymore before graduating to be a key member of the 2011 Super Rugby winning Queensland Reds side.
While past meetings count for little, there is one moment from the game a fortnight ago that supporters will be hoping is replicated on Saturday, when Kagifa Samoa scored arguably the best try of the 2019 Rapid Rugby tournament. See it again below!
Saturday, 15 June 2019 | Ballymore Stadium in Brisbane
Gates open: 2.00pm | Kick-off: 3.40pm
Starting XV: 1.Andrew STOWERS, 2.JP SAUNI, 3.Sam AIONO, 4.Michael MCKEE, 5.Nili MOALA, 6.Callum ADAMS, 7.Laga FASAVALU, 8.Dylan LAM, 9.Leon FUKOFUKA (C), 10.Sheldon TARAWA, 11.David FELIUAI, 12.Pakisonasi AFU, 13.Tino MAFOE, 14.Ah Mu TUIMALEALIIFANO, 15.Kalione HALA
Reserves: 16.Frank MALU, 17.Misioka TIMOTEO, 18.Daniel ANAE, 19.Sione TU’IPULOTU, 20.Jeremiah SKELTON, 21.Tim SIPPEL, 22.Maui HAUSIA, 23.Chris KURIDRANI
Starting XV: 1.Harrison LLOYD, 2.Feleti KAITU’U, 3.Kieran LONGBOTTOM, 4.Johan BARDOUL, 5.Fergus LEE WARNER, 6.Henry STOWERS, 7.Chris ALCOCK, 8.Brynard STANDER, 9.Issak FINES, 10.AJ ALATIMU, 11.Rod DAVIES, 12.Rodney IONA, 13.Marcel BRACHE (C), 14.Masivesi DAKUWAQA, 15.Jack McGREGOR
Reserves: 16.Andrew READY 17.Markus VANZATI, 18.Tom SHEMINANT, 19.Ben GRANT, 20.Tevin FERRIS, 21.Rory O’Sullivan, 22.Andrew DEEGAN, 23.Clay UYEN
Referee: Aaron Pook, AR1: Jordan Way, AR2: Andrew TWIST, TMO: Rohan Hoffmann