Western Force coach Tim Sampson has praised his side's fight after their latest injury setback, losing inspirational flanker Kane Koteka with a foot injury

Koteka suffered the injury in last week's 22-18 loss to the Blues in Perth, forced from the field in the 64th minute.

The 28-year-old won the team's best and fairest award last year, and his absence is a big blow to the Force's hopes of landing a top-eight berth.

Koteka's absence is part of two changes to the starting line-up for Saturday night's clash with the Crusaders in Perth.

Backrower Tim Anstee has been included to start in the No.8 jersey, with Ollie Callan moving to openside flanker.

Meanwhile, winger Byron Ralston replaces Toni Pulu (hamstring), who had only just returned from a concussion.

Force coach Tim Sampson has praised his team's resilience in the face of disappointment following a series of heartbreaking losses this season

The Force's four-point defeat to the ladder-leading Blues was their fifth by six points or less this year, failing to find a way over the line after over 20 phases after the siren.

Sampson's men suffered heartbreaking one-point losses to both the Rebels and Brumbies, along with going down to the Waratahs by five points.

In round one, the Force conceded a late try to lose to the Brumbies by six points after a last minute Lachlan Lonergan try.

The run of close losses has seen the Force slip to ninth spot with a 2-7 record, but they are still in the hunt for a top-eight berth.

"They're in a good space," Sampson said to reporters.

"I take my hat off to them. We've had so many tight losses. It's five games now that have been by (six) points or less.

"It's  a pretty tough crew, and they're desperate to get a win."

The Force finally reversed their notorious slow starts last week, and also managed to hold the Blues scoreless in the second half to almost steal the win.

"An interesting stat that came out was it was the first time the Blues had been held scoreless in the second half for four years," Sampson added.

"We still lost, but we take a lot of confidence out of that against the top team."