ROTHERHAM coach Andre Bester is taking a calculated gamble by making multiple changes to the Titans side for this Sunday’s Championship match against league leaders Bristol at the Memorial Stadium.
With the forthcoming promotion play-offs in mind, Bester has decided to rest major players to avoid injury, and instead give opportunities to many on the fringe of the first team squad so they gain experience of playing in a competitive game.
Although Rotherham’s team will be an A side and risks the danger of a heavy defeat, Bester stresses that the vast majority of the squad to face Bristol will have appeared in Championship rugby this season.
“Once the play-offs start, you need a big squad which has played in serious games, so it is essential to give game-time to our reserve players,” he said.
“You need to see how they can cope with pressure and because many of them have played infrequently, now that we have more than 50 points, this is a good time to see what they can do.
“We’ll see how they adapt to playing against the top side in the league before a big crowd at a big stadium.”
Bester has wasted no time in giving a Championship debut to this week’s signing, 25-year-old scrum half Dale Farnham, who has been on Plymouth’s books this season and has appeared for Natal Under-19s and Under=-21s.
Farnham will form a half back partnership with fellow South African Cliffie Hodgson who keeps his place after a satisfactory performance in the last Championship match against Moseley.
Just as the back line will show several alterations from a fortnight ago, the forwards, too, will not resemble the unit that played so powerfully in the first half against Moseley.
However, the pack will be strengthened by the return of Scottish lock Neale Patrick who had made such a solid contribution before being hurt against Bedford towards the end of September.
With the play-offs coming up, it is important that a forward of Patrick’s stature is able to play competitively again, and the same applies to another long term absentee, back row forward Talite Vaioleti.
The Tongan, who broke his ankle in September at Leeds, is on the bench at Bristol, so is likely to experience the cut and thrust of Championship rugby once again in the second half. Carl Kirwan is also bidding to stake his claim for a regular starting berth.
TITANS: Homan, McMahon, Tellwright, Brierley,Farnham, Hodgson, McCall, Harris, White, Stagg, Stout, Patrick, Vaioleti, Griffiths, Matthews, Wade, Hooper, Nonu, Dougall, Taulava, Rhodes, Copeland, Kirwan.