Sharpening combinations around match-winning flyhalf Luke Carty will be one of the main missions against the Seattle Seawolves at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on Sunday.
A statement performance in Pride Round to end the regular season would be the perfect springboard into the cut-throat play-off stage of Major League Rugby.
The Giltinis have made a single change to their match day squad of 23 with Samoan-born prop Fred Apulu, 26, earning his first opportunity on the bench after promising showings for the LA Rising Stars. Canadian international Djustice Sears-Duru has been promoted to a starting role at prop against his former club.
Head coach Stephen Hoiles wants the 11-4 Giltinis to take humming combinations as well as winning momentum into the play-offs.
“We want a really good hit-out on Sunday. Getting our combinations clicking around Luke is really important because this will only be the second time he’s started for us all season,” Hoiles said.
“There was more width to our game against Utah last weekend because of Luke and we want to keep building our attacking shape.
“There are definite improvements in defence we need to make as well.
“The Seawolves will be a significant challenge. We respect them. They are two-time MLR champions and play with width as we do. They off-load, like to attack and have abrasive forwards.”
After four months out with injury, Carty found his match legs with 72 minutes against Utah in his second comeback game. He set up one try with a clever chip kick, distributed his passes neatly and proved how grooved his goalkicking is with six-from-seven success.
Carty’s USA Eagles teammate Joe Taufete’e (calf) is close to a return from injury at hooker but is being rested for another week.
The versatile Tuala (below) will start in the position against Seattle with Lindsey Stevens ready to make an impact as back-up from the bench.
Apulu's elevation to the bench is another sign of the strong development theme to the Giltinis program. He played for the Samoan Under-20s team in 2015-16 and built his education as a forward with Marist Hawaii Rugby Club.Through the Giltinis' scouting efforts and his performances at the USA Residency program, he was identified as a high-potential athlete. He earned a full-time spot in the club's development program and is ready to throw around his 270lb (122kg), 6'4" (1.93m) frame.
The Giltinis have an internal award where they celebrate the player voted best all-round in contact after each game. He becomes the team’s yellow Aaron Donald jersey wearer for the week in a nod to the LA Rams' Super Bowl hero.
Backrowers Christian Poidevin and Hanco Germishuys shared the award from last weekend’s performances against the Utah Warriors.
The power couple nickname “Panco” quickly took off in team ranks in the same way that the “Pooper” tag caught on when Michael Hooper and David Pocock played in the Wallabies backrow.
Germishuys (below) scored the opening try with a trademark run when the Giltinis toppled the Seawolves 31-12 on their visit to Seattle in March.
“We’ve had big boots to fill in the backrow since Angus Cottrell sustained his season-ending knee injury. Hanco and ‘Poido’ have both been excellent,” Hoiles said.
For Sunday’s 3pm match (PST), the Giltinis will wear rainbow laces in support of Pride Month and the LGBTQ+ community. A curtainraiser at 1.20pm will feature the LA Rebellion against the San Diego Armada.
LA GILTINIS (v Seattle Seawolves)
1 Djustice Sears-Duru, 2 Andrew Tuala, 3 Marco Fepulea’i, 4 Dave Dennis (capt), 5 Nathan Den Hoedt, 6 Hanco Germishuys, 7 Christian Poidevin, 8 Langilangi Haupeakui, 9 Harrison Goddard, 10 Luke Carty, 11 Cristian Rodriguez, 12 Billy Meakes, 13 Ben LeSage, 14 Will Chambers, 15 Tom Mitchell Replacements: 16 Lindsey Stevens, 17 Charlie Abel, 18 Fred Apulu, 19 Zach Bonte, 20 Cyrille Cama, 21 Tas Smith, 22 Ryan James, 23 Luke BurtonIN: Fred ApuluOUT: Les Leuluaialii-Makin
(v Utah Warriors)
Ball carries: Will Chambers 10, Langilangi Haupeakui 8, Billy Meakes 8
Running Metres Gained: Billy Meakes 109, Christian Poidevin 104, Will Chambers 92, Ryan James 86
Offloads: Cristian Rodriguez 4
Tackles: Will Chambers 12, Harrison Goddard 10, Christian Poidevin 10
Ruck and Maul Arrivals: Christian Poidevin 20, Nathan Den Hoedt 17, Dave Dennis 17, Langilangi Haupeakui 11
Season Try-scoring: Hanco Germishuys 8, Ben LeSage 4, Andrew Tuala 4, John Ryberg 4, Will Chambers 3, Harrison Goddard 3, Lindsey Stevens 3
Joe Taufete’e - Hooker (calf)
Angus Cottrell – Backrower (knee)
Matt Giteau – Flyhalf (calf)
Adam Ashe – Backrower (neck)
DTH van der Merwe – Winger (knee)
Brooklyn Hardaker – Winger (knee)
Jordan Trainor – Fullback (toe)
Luke White – Lock (ankle)
Corey Thomas – Backrower (knee)
The Giltinis face the Seattle Seawolves at 3pm (PST) on Sunday at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. The match will be broadcast live on Bally Sports SoCal and Bally Sports West in Los Angeles. The match can also be viewed live on The Rugby Network internationally.