If they can get past their propensity to throw games away the Western Force might be able to upset the apple cart for other Australian Super Rugby franchises in the run to the playoffs.
Having again thrown away chances, this time against the Highlanders, the Force will take on the struggling Reds, the Brumbies and the Melbourne Rebels in the final rounds of the regular season.
After all, the Force have been able to defeat the Waratahs twice and were competitive in their previous losses to other Australian sides, positive thinking decrees wins could be just around the corner.
In losing to the Highlanders 23-3, the Force allowed the NZ team to climb above the Brumbies on the ladder, but coach Michael Foley was optimistic they learned a valuable lesson about what they need to do to convert their opportunities.
“It’s not a new lesson but I think when we bring that great enthusiasm and aggression to our defence and create chances, you have to make the most of them,” Foley said.
“Against really good sides you’re not going to get a hell of a lot of chances and we saw that against the Waratahs as well when we only got a couple of chances. Against the Waratahs, we finished them off and this week we didn’t quite do that.
“I thought there was enough there for us to potentially win that game if we take those chances early, but the couple of tries that we were probably a pass away from making we missed.”
Now the Highlanders can move to second in the New Zealand conference and box seat for a finals appearance by beating the currently second placed Chiefs this Saturday in Invercargill.
Coach Jamie Joseph was proud of his team’s efforts to beat the Force and is looking forward to getting home after three weeks in South Africa and one in Perth before preparing for the Chiefs.
“I take my hat off to the Force because they had to work really hard and they made us earn it, but our boys had a lot of incentive with our captain (Ben Smith) playing 100 games and one of their best mates (John Hardie) playing 50,” Joseph said.
“We’ve got three matches to go and for us if we beat the Chiefs and get up against those guys we will slip ahead of them. That really boils down to being a massive match in Invercargill and we are really looking forward to that.”