The return of marquee signing Tom Varndell has given the South China Tigers a boost ahead of their clash against the unbeaten Western Force on Sunday in Hong Kong. Coach Craig Hammond hasn’t been afraid to throw his side around, Varndell is one of nine changes to the starting XV, including seven in the backs. Skipper Liam Slatem is the lone survivor from the backs group that started in the Tigers last outing against the Asia Pacific Dragons.
Hammond will be hoping his side can turn the tables on the Force after going down by 23 points when they met in Perth in late March. That was the South China Tigers first Global Rapid Rugby outing and they have continued to develop their game since, including an impressive win when they last stepped out at home in Hong Kong.
Helping their cause is the restoration of impressive number 8 Luke Van Der Smit to the run on side. Van Der Smit has shown a liking for Aberdeen Sports Ground, scoring a try and making his presence felt as the Tigers notched gave local fans plenty to celebrate at the ground three weeks ago.
Meanwhile, the Western Force will be without skipper Ian Prior who suffered a pectoral injury in their hard-fought win over the Dragon last Sunday in Singapore. USA International, Marcel Brache, will lead the team for the first time.
The Force have named a relatively settled starting side with Issak Fines replacing Prior at scrumhalf, while young West Australian, Clay Uyen, has been elevated from the bench to start for the first time in 2019. Uyen has shown exciting glimpses this year as a substitute but will get his chance to impress from the opening whistle.
Future Force recruit Ben Grant (lock) and Wests Scarborough scrumhalf, Angus Taylor, could make their Global Rapid Rugby and Western Force debuts having been included in the reserves.
Where: Aberdeen Sports Ground, Hong Kong
Date: Sunday, 12 May 2019
Kick-off: 16:00 local
South China Tigers
Starting XV: 1.Benjamin HIGGINS, 2.Dayne JANS, 3.Tau KOLOMATANGI, 4.Fin FIELD, 5.Kyle SULLIVAN, 6.James CUNNINGHAM, 7.James SAWYER, 8.Luke VAN DER SMIT, 9.Liam SLATEM (C), 10.Matthew ROSSLEE, 11.Harry SAYER, 12.Tom HILL, 13.Ben AXTEN-BARRETT, 14.Tom VARNDELL, 15.Jack NEVILLE
Reserves: 16.Mitch ANDREWS, 17.Callum MCFEAT-SMITH, 18.Faizal SOLOMONA, 19.Kane BOUCAUT, 20.Josh DOWSING, 21.Bryn PHILLIPS, 22.Sami NAGAVESI, 23.Glyn HUGHES
Starting XV: 1.Chris HEIBERG, 2.Heath TESSMANN, 3.Kieran LONGBOTTOM, 4.Johan BARDOUL, 5.Fergus LEE WARNER, 6.Henry STOWERS, 7.Tevin FERRIS, 8.Brynard STANDER, 9.Issak FINES-LELEIWASA, 22.Aj ALATIMU, 11.Brad LACEY, 12.Henry TAEFU, 13.Marcel BRACHE (C), 14.Rodney DAVIES, 15.Clay UYEN
Reserves: 16.Feleti KAITU’U, 17.Markus VANZATI, 18.Tom SHEMINANT, 20.Ben GRANT, 19.Chris ALCOCK, 21.Angus TAYLOR, 24.Rodney IONA, 23.Jack MCGREGOR
Referee: Timothy Baker, AR1: Matthew Rodden, AR2: Edward Fitzgerald, TMO: Patrick Kwok