White: Sharks changes is not a gamble

2014-07-04 00:00

JAKE White has insisted the whopping seven changes he made to his starting XV to face the Cheetahs on tomorrow is no gamble, despite plenty still riding on the result, as well as the remaining Super Rugby clash against the Stormers next week.

The Sharks director of rugby named a completely new front row, changing six out of the eight forwards in total, while also bringing in Tim Swiel in the vital flyhalf position.

“I don’t think it’s a gamble,” White said. “We’re privileged enough to know we’re in the play-offs. With that is the chance to get some rotation going.

“To be fair, if we’re going to play for another five weeks, which is possible, it will be the 17th week in a row that some of these Springboks played and I don’t think we could win if they played for that long.That will take its toll in the semi-finals and finals.”

Springboks Willem Alberts, Bismarck du Plessis, Jannie du Plessis and Tendai Mtawarira, who is forced to miss out through injury, all make way after the last defeat to the Stormers before the international break, along with Tera Mtembu, Etienne Oosthuizen and Paul Jordaan, the only backline change. Instead, White has gone for Lourens Adriaanse, Kyle Cooper and Dale Chadwick at the front of the scrum, with Anton Bresler, fit again after being sidelined since week five, at lock.

Ryan Kankowski and Jean Deysel, who has been named captain, join Marcell Coetzee in the loose trio and Swiel comes in at number 10, allowing Francois Steyn to slot back to his more familiar centre position.

White revealed that rotating his team now makes more sense considering their position in the competition.

“We didn’t do it earlier because we hadn’t qualified for the play-offs,” he explained. “The first goal was to win the conference, which we’ve done and the first goal was to make sure we got a chance to win the competition. Had we made the changes earlier, I’m not sure we would have had the luxury of being where we are now.”

White revealed that Steyn was in fantastic condition after a few weeks off during the June international window. The utility back withdrew from the Boks squad for personal reasons ahead of their series against Wales.

There was also good news on the Patrick Lambie front, despite the Springbok flyhalf failing to make the match day 23.

“I think if this was the last game of the season I would have rushed him in and played him,” White said. “He’s keen to play. I’ve worked on the basis that if we have four games, I’d rather have him for the last two.”

The Sharks are currently second on the log, three points behind the Waratahs, and must win their remaining games to have any chance of ending top after the regular season and with it claiming a much-sought after home final.

But White had a different approach towards the next two games: “We’ve probably got the best away record in the competition, so it doesn’t worry me where we play [in the play-offs]. Ideally, we want to play at home, but in saying that, our record away from home is the best out of any team in this competition, so I’m not fazed.”

Sharks: S.P. Marais, JP Pietersen, S’bura Sithole, Frans Steyn, Lwazi Mvovo, Tim Swiel, Cobus Reinach, Ryan Kankowski, Jean Deysel (captain), Marcell Coetzee, Anton Bresler, Stephan Lewies, Lourens Adriaanse, Kyle Cooper, Dale Chadwick.

Replacements: Thomas du Toit, Bismarck du Plessis, Jannie du Plessis, Willem Alberts, Tera Mtembu, Charl McLeod, Odwa Ndungane, Tonderai Chavhanga.

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