Durban - While some might say it’s taking a chance making so many changes to your side, Cell C Sharks director of rugby believes that they have earned the right to reduce the workload on some of his players.
And then there is also the need to give others an opportunity, those who have provided the necessary back-up off the bench, doing their bit to help the team to where they are now - guaranteed play-off contestants, reports Sharks website editor, Micheal Marnewick
"I don’t think it’s a gamble," White explains of the new front row and one or two other personnel changes for Saturday’s Super Rugby clash with the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein.
"We’re privileged enough to be in the play-offs and with that comes the chance to get some rotation going.
"If we have to play another five weeks – which is possible – it will be 17 weeks in a row that some of these Boks will have played, and to be fair to them, I don’t think we can win if they have to play for that extended period without a break; that will take its toll in the semis and final."
He adds that the changes were in no way influenced by their estimation of the opposition.
"Not for one minute is it disrespecting the Cheetahs, or that we aren’t taking this game seriously.
"We’ve had time to work with these players while the Boks have been away, and it gives us a chance to see how good they are.
"Hopefully they can stake a claim for the last couple of rounds in terms of knock-out rugby.
"We’re only introducing the changes now, not earlier, because we’ve qualified for the play-offs.
"First goal was to win the conference - which we’ve done - to make sure we get a chance to win the competition, had we made those changes earlier we may not have had that luxury of being where we are now.
"Also, what’s important to note is that this is my first year with this group of players, I don’t know them as well as other coaches know their squads.
"The more I work with them, the more they will get chances to play in the Currie Cup, the more they come off the bench like they did in Christchurch, the more confidence I will get that they can play at this level.
"It wasn’t remiss of me not to change earlier, it was my feeling as a coach that what I put on the field is going to be good enough to win the competition.
"There is nothing to read into the changes and it will be nice to see if they can take the momentum and confidence they got on tour with them into this game.”
The pressure on the Sharks to perform is probably not as destructive as it is for some other teams who are not yet assured of the kind of finish they aim for.
"We’re in a very privileged position where we know we’re in the knock-out stages,” he admits.
"If the Waratahs win and the Highlanders and Crusaders lose this weekend, and we win, then there is no need to play next weekend, because first and second place will have been decided.
"We won’t be able to catch the Waratahs and we’ll both be too far ahead to be caught by the two New Zealand sides.
"But you can’t jump the gun, you’ve got to first see what happens this weekend.
"But if that is the case, then next weekend becomes another debate about what team we put out, how much risk do we take in terms of injuries, do we start preparing for the semi-finals?
"We have an opportunity to rest some Springboks.
"Jannie and Bismarck have played 12 weeks in a row, getting up for big games on consecutive weekends.
"I’m quite excited about the chances that these other guys are getting.
"If Tim Swiel can continue his Crusaders’ confidence and Kyle Cooper
, who scored the winning try against the Crusaders, can have a good game against Free State, against a guy like Adriaan Strauss
, a current Springbok, that will be great for him.
"They’ll be putting their hands up."
Kick-off for Saturday's clash at the Free State Stadium is scheduled for 19:10.Teams:Cheetahs
Willie le Roux, 14 Cornal Hendricks, 13 Johann Sadie, 12 Rayno
Benjamin, 11 Raymond Rhule, 10 Johan Goosen, 9 Sarel Pretorius
, 8 Philip
van der Walt, 7 Teboho Mohoje, 6 Torsten van Jaarsveld, 5 Francois Uys,
4 Lood de Jager, 3 Coenie Ootshuizen, 2 Adriaan Strauss
Substitutes: 16 Caylib Oosthuizen, 17 Luan de
Bruin, 18 Carl Wegner, 19 Jean Cook
, 20 Henco Venter, 21 Shaun Venter,
22 Elgar Watts, 23 Hennie DanillerSharks
SP Marais, 14. JP Pietersen
, 13. S’bura Sithole, 12. Frans Steyn
, 10. Tim Swiel, 9. Cobus Reinach
, 8. Ryan Kankowski
, 7. Jean
Deysel (captain), 6. Marcell Coetzee
, 5. Anton Bresler
, 4. Stephan
Lewies, 3. Lourens Adriaanse
, 2. Kyle Cooper
, 1. Dale Chadwick
16. Thomas du Toit, 17. Bismarck du Plessis, 18. Jannie du Plessis, 19.
, 20. Tera Mtembu, 21. Charl McLeod, 22. Odwa Ndungane
23. Tonderai Chavhanga