The Western Force are aiming to snap out of their recent funk against South African teams in their bid to land a dream Super Rugby finals berth this season.
The Force are sitting pretty in fifth spot following five wins from their opening eight games, but the Perth-based franchise are yet to be tested by any South African opposition.
That will change over the next month when the Force take on the Bulls (Perth), Cheetahs (Bloemfontein), Stormers (Cape Town) and Lions (Perth) in what shapes as a season-defining period.
The Force have lost seven of their past eight games against South African opposition, and coach Michael Foley knows his charges will need to turn that record around if they are to stay in the hunt for a top-six berth.
South African sides are renowned for their strong scrummaging work – an area the Force were badly exposed in during last week’s 22-16 loss to the Melbourne Rebels.
Foley said his team also needed to improve their lineout if they were to come away with a positive record over the next four games.
“For us, having the four South African sides means we have to meet some of those challenges over the next four weeks if we’re to have a successful year,” Foley said ahead of Saturday night’s clash with the Bulls at nib Stadium.
“Every season you go into, you think about the ultimate goal, which would be to win (the title) or make the finals.
“But there’s a lot of things we’ve got to achieve before we get to that point.”
The ninth-placed Bulls appear ripe for the picking following three straight defeats on their Australasian tour and the loss of a host of key players.
But Foley remained wary of a side captained by legendary Springbok Victor Matfield.
The Force welcome back fullback Jayden Hayward and lock Sam Wykes, but winger Luke Morahan (hamstring) and scrumhalf Alby Mathewson (ankle) remain grounded by injury.
Although the Bulls love to scrum and maul, Foley has also warned his team to expect lots of high balls.
“Bjorn Basson as a winger sets the benchmark for the tournament in terms of coming through and contesting that ball,” Foley said.
“It’s ok to say ‘we’ve got to catch them’.
“But there needs to be a response from the whole team to get behind that ball and then play out of that situation.”