The backing of a billionaire owner and a slew of international signings have failed to deliver a win for Rob Kearney's Western Force in Super Rugby AU but the Perth-based side may finally have their breakthrough against the struggling New South Wales Waratahs.
The Force had a bye last week after being belted 27-11 by the ACT Brumbies at home in round one, extending their winless streak to nine matches since rejoining Australia's Super Rugby teams in the inaugural competition last year.
The Waratahs, meanwhile, have conceded more than 100 points in record losses against the Queensland Reds in round one and the ACT Brumbies last Saturday. Another heavy loss could spell the end for former Munster coach Rob Penney.
On paper, Friday's clash at Western Sydney Stadium hardly screams "match of the round" but both sides are likely to compete desperately, with credibility arguably the bigger prize than championship points.
"The guys are hungry, I can see it," Western Force coach Tim Sampson told reporters on Thursday.
"It's been a nice build over each session. We were filthy with that result last game out and I think there is still a bit of fire in the belly from that performance.
"The players are desperate for a win. It's been a long time for us winning a game. I think you're going to see two teams going hard at it tomorrow night and show a lot of desperation to get the W."
Backed by mining magnate Andrew Forrest, the Force went on an off-season signing spree, bringing in Kearney at fullback and several Argentina internationals.
One of the Pumas players, World Cup scrum-half Tomas Cubelli, has tipped captain Iain Prior out of the starting side for Friday's match.
The Waratahs are in an entirely different boat, having failed to manage a well-telegraphed exodus of Wallabies players in recent years.
Former rugby league player Izaia Perese, the Waratahs' only notable signing during the off-season, was red-carded in round one and is serving a three-week suspension for a lifting tackle on Queensland Reds centre Hunter Paisami.
Several Waratahs players, including 21-year-old flyhalf Will Harrison, are seen as future Wallabies champions but New Zealander Penney may not be around to see them blossom if his team is embarrassed for a third straight week.
New South Wales is traditionally regarded Australia's strongest rugby province, so coach Penney's pleas for patience may fall on deaf ears if disgruntled fans and pundits demand change.
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