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All eyes on Wellington, Sydney

Written by Rob Otto (robdylan)

Posted in :Original Content, Sharks, Super Rugby on 25 Jun 2014 at 11:39
Tagged with : , , , , , , , , , , ,

Results in Super Rugby this weekend – with New Zealand and Australian teams involved in derbies that could prove decisive while the Cell C Sharks look on – are set to shape the selection decisions made by the latter’s head coach, Jake White. White, whose team’s tenuous hold on top spot on the overall standings looks unlikely to last the weekend, needs to pick a strategy ahead of the last two round robin games against the Cheetahs and the Stormers.

With a tiring squad (more than half of his first-choice 23 being with the Boks) and hopes of a home semi-final fading fast, White again dropped a very clear hint today that he may look to box clever over the coming weeks and save his big guns for a knock-out series that is likely to finish away from home. Having already secured the South African conference title, the Sharks can finish no lower than third and could even go so far as to “throw” their last two games without it having a material impact on their final finishing position.

That is assuming, of course, that both the Crusaders and the Waratahs overtake them this weekend and that neither slips up in the final fortnight – itself a big gamble. Assuming wins over the Hurricanes and Brumbies respectively in round 17, a loss for either side in the matches to follow could open the door again for the Sharks to sneak a top-two finish and White would kick himself if he failed to capitalise on that chance by sending a significantly weakened team to either Bloemfontein or Cape Town.

Talking to the Sharks website, White indicated that “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.” That’s a pretty clear indication that he’s not rating the chances of a top two finish as particularly likely and with Beast Mtawarira and possibly Willem Alberts already in doubt for the games to come, White will need to make a few changes at the very least.

Pat Lambie and Anton Bresler are two previously injured players who will come back into the reckoning and it will be interesting to see whether White entrusts the former with the captaincy at some stage, letting Bismarck du Plessis enjoy a well-earned breather.


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