Jake White has hinted at a bold strategy to rest his returning Springboks with the Sharks having sewn up the South African conference and guaranteed some play-off rugby already.
The Sharks have an unassailable hold on the South African Conference and cannot finish the tournament any lower than third.
However, the plan is to finish in the top two and earn a direct route to a home semifinal without having to play a qualifying knock-out match.
White has indicated that if they are to really be competitive when it matters, it may require some tactical selection policies.
“The Boks can have a rest, if we box clever we can let the Springboks have a little time away, so we could be in a really good space come play-off time,” the Sharks Director of Rugby said.
The likes of the Du Plessis bothers, Jannie and Bismarck, have been heavily involved in both the Sharks’ Super Rugby campaign and the national team’s mid-year Tests with many pundits calling for them to be rested.
White will not have to deprive his team of Springboks totally.
With the likes of Pat Lambie returning from injury along side Bok castaway Frans Steyn, who has been training in Durban again, White has some depth to call upon.
The Sharks also welcome back stalwart lock Anton Bresler from a long injury lay-off.
White has clearly thought through all the permutations of his team’s path to the Final and the potential shot at securing Super Rugby silverware for the first time.
“The nice thing about where we are is that we’ve won the conference, we are going to play play-off rugby and the worst case scenario is that we’re going to have to win three games – one at home and two away – to win the competition,” White said.
“But from a positive point of view, we’ve been the best South African touring side, so we’re not worried about having to win away from home.”
If White is to be believed, it would seem to suggest that he would rather back a fresh set of Springboks playing away from home than a tired and worn-out group playing in Durban.
“People speak about the break and the momentum, but we see the positives,” the Director continued.
“We have to make sure we’re on song for the play-offs, whether it’s a quarterfinal first or straight to the semifinals.”
The Sharks have two games remaining, both away from the Shark Tank, they take on the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein on Saturday with a trip to the Cape and the Stormers to follow.