Director of Rugby Gary Gold said on Thursday that the Sharks will honour the agreement they entered into with the South African Rugby Union (Saru) over the resting of Springboks, despite naming Marcell Coetzee, Pat Lambie and Cobus Reinach in the starting line-up for the sixth week in a row for their crunch match against the Chiefs in Durban on Saturday.
Saru confirmed this week that the agreement with the franchises that key Springboks would not play for more than five consecutive weeks and that they would have rest weeks during the tournament was “the ideal” and was not legally binding.
With the Sharks having endured a difficult start to the season, Saturday’s match against the powerful Chiefs is a key one as they look to close the five-point gap between them and the Stormers in the South African Conference, and Gold said the selection should be seen in the light of this.
“Our view is that we’re 100% behind the Boks in resting players, I think it’s the right thing to do and we’ve agreed to a plan. But we have a different challenge on our hands that other Unions don’t have. We have the most number of Springboks and our first bye is only in Week 11. So when other teams get that bye, they have the break within the five weeks.
“Where it becomes problematic is not being able to meet that five-week period this week. We haven’t been given the benefit of a bye which three of the five South African franchises have already. But as of last week, we’re the only team to have rested Springboks.
“It’s a challenge, but it’s something we’re committed to. It’s the right thing to do, I think the Springboks do need to get some rest time, and I want to make it very clear that we’re committed to that agreement. No-one wants the Springboks to win this Rugby World Cup more than me after going through the disaster of 2011,” Gold, who was the assistant coach when South Africa were eliminated at the quarterfinal stage of the last World Cup, said.
The selection of the current national players means there is just one change to the Sharks team that won so convincingly last weekend in Bloemfontein, with Marco Wentzel, capped as a Springbok in 2002, named as the replacement for the injured lock Pieter-Steph du Toit.
The in-form Du Toit’s knee injury is not as serious as first feared, with the 22-year-old now being ruled out for three months.
After such a good performance as the one in Bloemfontein, Gold said it would be silly to now make changes.
“The guys took a lot of confidence out of a tough game, the Cheetahs are not a roll-over. We played in tough conditions and we’re able to keep continuity going for the same guys in the same positions. From next week we’re going to have to look at jiggling things,” Gold said.