Durban - Sharks director of rugby Jake White felt that last week's Springbok training camp was one of a number of reasons that contributed to his side's shock Super Rugby loss to the Stormers in Durban on Saturday.
A Jaco Taute drop-goal on the final hooter helped the visitors snatch a dramatic 21-19 victory at Kings Park, leaving the home side hanging on to their log-leading position by a thread.
"Playing eight games in a row isn't easy and then the Springbok camp this week didn't help," a disappointed White said afterwards.
"It's the reality of what we had to sit up with. It's not ideal, the boys have spoken about it, but it's one of those things you just have to adapt."
The Sharks lost ten players to a three-day camp held in Durban at the start of last week, with national coach Heyneke Meyer calling up a 36-man group ahead of the four-game June international break.
What made things more difficult for the Sharks was the fact that their players stepped off a plane back from Australasia and straight into the camp.
"I knew that the eight weeks would take a toll on the players" White explained.
"History has told me this team in all the competitions, whenever there's a Springbok camp we lost the next game, so it's not just with me.
"If you look at the Lions, who had one guy out, they ended up getting a great result against a Bulls side that would also have been disjointed will all the guys they had at camp.
"It's not just the eight weeks, it's not just the camp, it's everything added up. It's the bench we had to use, it's the fatigue that came in, the form from the last two weeks, we thought that might carry us over this weekend. It's one of those things that happen in sport."
The hosts had led throughout the game and scored the only try through scrumhalf Cobus Reinach on the stroke of half-time.
But Frans Steyn missed two crucial penalties when the lead was brought down to a single point just after the hour and Taute capitalised on the final whistle by landing his drop goal.
The Sharks' lead at the summit has now been whittled down to two points over the Waratahs and four over the Crusaders, both of whom have a game in hand.
"It's not all doom and gloom," said White, whose side clinched the domestic conference and a play-off berth after the Bulls fell 32-21 to the Lions.
"There's a lot more rugby to be played, at this point we're still top of the log and I still believe there's enough there for us to win this competition."
Stormers boss Allister Coetzee was delighted, describing the win as their best of the campaign.
"It comes close to one of our biggest wins in the Stormers jersey," he said.
"Considering the amount of players that are missing, it's fantastic and a really big one for us."