Durban – The Sharks will field their strongest available starting XV for Friday's final pre-season game against the Lions in Johannesburg, according to director of rugby Jake White.
He will be aiming to use the same players in next weekend's Super Rugby opener against the Bulls at Kings Park in Durban.
The Durban franchise travels to Johannesburg for the Friday night fixture, with the coaching staff focused on continuity for the early stages of the competition.
“It's probably as close as it can get (to a Super Rugby dress rehearsal),” White said of their last warm-up match.
“I'm going to try and pick the team I'd like to start against the Bulls and give them as much game time as I can in the first 40-50 minutes.
“If I've seen them I can give other guys a run. The quicker I can get some cohesion then the better.”
The Sharks lost their only other pre-season encounter when they went down 23-15 to high-flying English club Saracens in London 10 days ago.
Since then the likes of SP Marais and Anton Bresler have returned to full training after long-term injuries – both taking part in training on Tuesday along with Springbok loose forward Ryan Kankowski after his six-months of playing club rugby in Japan.
Springbok wing JP Pietersen is still in Japan where his club is involved in the playoffs. He is expected to return to the Sharks in the first week of March.
“What's nice is that most of the guys are coming back from rehab and from long-term injuries,” White said.
“As long as we get through this performance on Friday night, we could have almost 35 of our 36 players, barring JP Pietersen, available for selection come the Bulls game next week.”
White, who is new in the role having taken up the position late last year, was also hoping they would avoid picking up any injuries against the Lions.
“As a coach you're always going to be concerned about losing guys and I don't think a coach ever gets a team that he actually wants to start,” he said.
“I mean if you think about it, even at Springbok level, you never really get the perfect team because whenever you get someone back, someone else almost inevitably breaks down.”
White said if the team did not come through the encounter unscathed, they could still call on the fringe players that have been given a run previously.
“That also adds further depth to the squad and it's something crucial in this competition.” – Sapa