Durban - Sharks coach John Plumtree admits it's a fine balancing act when trying to decide whether or not to play his returning Springboks in this week’s Currie Cup playoffs.
The Durbanites host the Blue Bulls here at Kings Park on Saturday after securing top spot in the preliminary rounds.
They played without the majority of the senior players who were away on national duty and all seven are now available, leaving plenty to ponder for the Sharks boss.
"It hasn’t been easy, there’s been a little bit of walking around in the middle of the night," said Plumtree on Tuesday.
"But I’ve been in this situation so many times before.
"It’s about finding a balancing act between breaking up the rhythm you already have and bringing great players back into your side, which the Springboks are.
"We’ve seen it work before and we’ve also seen it fail. So we just have to make sure we pick the 22, which will do the job on the day."
The Bulls and Western Province, two of the major strugglers in this season’s competition, recalled almost all their available players last week for must-win matches, a ploy, which worked as they secured victories over the Lions and Free State Cheetahs respectively.
Only flyhalf Patrick Lambie made the first XV for the Sharks, while flanker Marcell Coetzee was a late inclusion due to injury.
"Generally, from my experience, when the Boks have been successful, they’ve struggled to come back and play Currie Cup rugby," said Plumtree.
"I’m not saying it’s a generic thing, but it’s from my experience."
The Sharks have grafted hard for the right to host a semi-final and a potential final next week after building on their formidable home record, which includes just one defeat in three seasons.
Plumtree, however, insisted that records mean nothing.
"It’s all in the past, we will lose a game here soon, probably," he said.
"Hopefully it won’t be this weekend or this year.
"There’s so much to look forward to after 11 weeks of hard work. We just want to go for two more weeks.
"We know what we’re up against, a very hungry Bulls side.
"They’ll be looking to prove a point after a tough year.
"There’s four teams now that can finish the season on a high and that’s what they will all be talking about.”
Plumtree also brushed aside the much discussed flyhalf duel between Patrick Lambie, one of the stars of their win over Griquas, and experienced Bok No 10 Morné Steyn.
"I haven’t given it too much thought," he said.
"It’s all media talk Pattie did a good job for us last week and hopefully he’ll do a good job for us this week."
On the injury front, lock Steven Sykes (calf), Odwa Ndungane (leg) and Jacques Botes (back) are the only concerns for the Sharks.