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Force turn to Grant to topple Highlanders

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 19/05/2017 Justin Chadwick

The Western Force have the chance to restore some pride in Australian rugby on Saturday night, and they'll be banking on a South African to get the job done. © Gallo Images/Getty Images The Western Force have the chance to restore some pride in Australian rugby on Saturday night, and they'll be banking on a South African to get the job done. The Western Force have the chance to restore some pride in Australian rugby on Saturday night, and they'll be banking on a South African to get the job done.

Australian teams are an astonishing 0-17 against New Zealand sides in the Super Rugby competition this season.

The Force have a chance to break Australia's drought when they take on the white-hot Highlanders at nib Stadium on Saturday night.

The Highlanders are riding high following a seven-match winning run.

But the Force are also full of confidence after becoming the first Australian Super team to win in Argentina last week when they produced a shock 16-6 triumph over the Jaguares.

The Highlanders are laden with All Blacks, while the Force don't even come close to matching it when it comes to star power.

The continued absence of Matt Hodgson (ankle), Ben McCalman (shoulder) and Dane Haylett-Petty (hamstring) has further tested the Force's depth.

But the inclusion of former Springbok Peter Grant into the No.10 jersey this week gives the Force some much-needed experience in what shapes as a high-stakes clash.

Grant was overlooked for selection in the opening nine rounds of the season as coach Dave Wessels turned to Jono Lance to steer the team as the key playmaker.

Grant finally got a gig on the bench in the round-10 loss to the Lions, and a fractured hand to Lance has seen the 32-year-old former Springbok thrust into the playmaker role against the Highlanders this week.

Wessels is confident Grant, a veteran of 122 Super matches, will play a pivotal role after impressing at fullback against the Jaguares.

"He can play in the toughest situations and his heart beat wouldn't get over 50. He's that sort of guy," Wessels said.

"Off the field 'Bash' has really come alive for us in the last couple of weeks.

"He's brought a lot of energy to the group with his experience. Nothing rattles 'Bash'.

"He's one of the coolest, calmest guys you'll ever meet. I've got a lot of confidence in him at 10."

The Force have four of their final five games at home, giving them a chance to snare a finals chance by topping the Australian conference.

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