Marquee players Kyle Godwin and Tetera Faulkner will make their first appearance for the Perth Spirit in the team’s first home match of the 2015 Buildcorp National Rugby Championship (NRC) against the North Harbour Rays at McGilivray Oval on Saturday.
The Spirit will look to make McGillivray Oval a fortress this season after winning two of their three home fixtures in Perth in 2014, as they look to ‘fill the hill’ against the Rays.
Godwin’s return at inside centre is one of six changes to the starting line-up to face the Rays while Faulkner, who is a member of the Wallabies’ Rugby World Cup train-on squad, will start off the bench.
In the front row, Tessmann will again captain the side after a standout performance against Brisbane City, and will pack down alongside Francois Van Wyk (UWA) and Nedlands’ premiership-winning tighthead prop Jermaine Ainsley, who both make their way into the run-on XV after impressing off the bench last week.
UWA’s Richard Hardwick will start at openside flanker on his home track, replacing fellow Future Force scholarship holder Kane Koteka, who has succumbed to a quad strain.
Davis Tavita will start at flyhalf in place of the injured Luke Burton (broken nose). Tavita’s call-up comes after an impressive showing in Nedlands’ Pindan Premier Grade grand final triumph last weekend in his first match back from an ankle injury.
Joondalup Brothers midfielder Maalonga Koneilo retains his spot after a solid showing in his Buildcorp NRC debut last week and will return to his favoured outside centre position and team up with Godwin.
2015 PG Hampshire Award winner, Daley Harper will again start from the bench providing coverage across the backline, while Kalamunda teammate and Western Australian Under 20 back-rower, Auega Seumanutafa will look to make his debut off the bench.
Current Hale Schoolboy and fellow WA Under 20 representative, Nicholas Jooste is set to make his Perth Spirit debut at just 18 years of age, while Nedlands’ premiership-winning hooker Anaru Rangi is also in line for his first appearance in the tournament.
McIssac says the team is looking forward to playing in front of their home crowd for the first time this season.
“The whole group is very excited to be playing in front of our home crowd on the hill this weekend,” he said.
“It’s great to have Kyle and Tet back for this week, who will bring further experience and class to our side.
“We took a lot out of last week’s match and, given the pace of the game, it’s important that we’re working hard off the ball to enable us to play the game we want to play.
“There were a number of very promising performances last week, and it was great to see guys like Francois Van Wyk and Jermaine Ainsley providing such an impact off the bench, and they’ve been rewarded with a starting role this weekend.
“Similarly, it’s exciting for a number of our rising young stars in Auega and Joostey to get their first taste at this level, and their performances this season at their club and representative levels should give them a lot of confidence ahead of this weekend’s match.”
Their opponents, the Macquarie Uni North Harbour Rays selectors have brought classy Manly Marlins duo straight into their starting side to take on Perth Spirit in the week two Buildcorp National Rugby Championship game in Perth on Saturday.
Reece Hodge will start the match at fullback while Sam Lane will share flyhalf duties throughout the afternoon with Hamish Angus, who did so well against the Sydney Stars at times last weekend.
Hodge gets the chance in the No.15 jersey in the wake of the hand injury sustained by Dave Feltscheer just before halftime against the Stars at Manly Oval last Saturday.
Feltscheer will undergo scans later this week to see if his broken hand requires surgery, but he is almost certainly out for the rest of the NRC season.
Lane rested an ankle injury that he nursed through the Marlins’ surge to the Shute Shield grand final, but trained earlier this week and will get his chance to impress in Perth.
He will need to train on Thursday night and come through without any major side effects to take his place on the plane to Perth on Friday.
Another Marlin Dennis Pili-Gaitau has been brought into the side at outside centre and will work with Tom Hill, who impressed enough last week to make several NRC team-of-the-week selections.
That sees Michael Adams, who scored a neat try in the early stages of the match v the Stars, move to the wing.
The only change in the starting XV sees Harry Rorke (Gordon) come into a starting role at lock.
Rorke played in the Emerging Rays’ nice win over the Galaxy (the Sydney Stars’ development team) and will bring his abrasive style to the table in Perth. He can play in the backrow as well as lock and is handy at lineout time.
Mark Johnson moves back to the bench and takes the place of Ed Gower after the workhorse Manly lock took up an option to play for Saracens in the UK on a two-year deal.
Ryan Melrose, who was part of the inaugural Rays squad in 2014 and has been playing well for Manly in the Shute Shield, has come into the group to cover for Gower.
Lawrance Hunting who injured his lower back last weekend in the warm up comes back on to the bench in place of Nick Fraser, while another Northern Suburbs player Richard Woolf will work off the bench after starting last weekend against the Stars.
Woolf did some nice things in attack and will relish the looser part of the game when he is likely to be used in Perth.
Head coach Geoff Townsend said the side will have to work hard on the basics to get any sort of result in Perth.
“We’ve got a lot of work to do on our defence, our kick chase and our urgency when kicks went in behind,” Townsend said.
“That left our back three exposed at different times but this is a new group and I am sure having more time together will help.
“Not having the Manly guys there for the first round certainly didn’t help but we are a week further down the track in our preparations and we will have learnt from that.”
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Perth Spirit team to take on the North Harbour Rays
1. Francois van Wyk UWA
2. Heath Tessman (c) Nedlands
3. Jermaine Ainsley Nedlands
4. Rory Walton Wests Scarborough
5. Ross Haylett-Petty Cottesloe
6. Chris Alcock UWA
7. Richard Hardwick UWA
8. Angus Cottrell Associates
9. Ryan Louwrens Cottesloe
10. Davis Tavita Nedlands
11. Brad Lacey Wests Scarborough
12. Kyle Godwin Associates
13. Maalonga Konelio Joondalup
14. Sevuloni Mocenacagi
15. Albert Nikoro Wests Scarborough
16. Anaru Rangi Nedlands
17. Chris Heiberg Perth Bayswater
18. Tetera Faulkner Wanneroo
19. Riley Winter Wests Scarborough
20. Auega Seumanutafa Kalamunda
21. Ian Prior Nedlands
22. Nicholas Jooste Hale School/Cottesloe
23. Daley Harper Kalamunda
North Harbour Rays team to take on Perth Spirit
15. Reece HODGE (Manly)
14. Alex NORTHAM (Manly)
13. Dennis PILI-GAITAU (Manly)
12. Tom HILL (Eastwood)
11. Michael ADAMS (Warringah)
10. Sam LANE (Manly) / Hamish ANGUS (Warringah)
9. Josh HOLMES (Warringah)
8. Sam WARD (Warringah)
7. Boyd KILLINGWORTH (Warringah)
6. Jack DEMPSEY (Gordon)
5. Cameron TRELOAR (Warringah)
4. Harry RORKE (Gordon)
3. Wayne BORSAK (Warringah)
2. Luke HOLMES (captain, Warringah)
1. Mitch LEWIS (Manly)
16. Vance ELLIOTT (Manly)
17. Rory O’CONNOR (Warringah)
18. Lawrance HUNTING (Northern Suburbs)
19. Mark JOHNSON (Gordon)
20. Harry BERGELIN (Manly)
21. Tim DONLAN (Manly)
22. Tyson DAVIS (Warringah)
23. Richard WOOLF (Northern Suburbs)