Is it asking too much that all regular-start Springboks from the punishing 2009 international schedule thus far be given a rest right through to the Absa Currie Cup semi-finals on October 17?
Some might call that ambitious, especially as Currie Cup spectators nationwide – not to mention sponsors, television bosses and the like – are going to want to see our all-conquering heroes back in provincial jerseys as quickly as possible.
Then there’s the players’ own natural, competitive juices to consider: as the premier domestic competition heads for a gripping round-robin climax over the next four weeks (with a six-team chase, as things stand, to squeeze into the semis) many of the Boks will quickly rediscover their mental appetites for the game, you can be sure.
Yet the physical demands have been unprecedented this year, and another ball to be juggled, in weighing up what is best for the senior national players, is the traditional end-of-year European tour – the world champions don’t want to lose their heady momentum by travelling as a bunch of vulnerable deadbeats.
So there is a balance to be struck, although my own view remains that, in a perfect scenario – simultaneously indicating that they aren’t simply cattle to be paraded or flogged willy-nilly – Bok ever-presents since the British and Irish Lions tour should be filtered back into the Currie Cup system very, very judiciously.
One blessing is that the admirable continuity of Bok selection this year makes it fairly easy to gauge which national stars have been employed the most, while it is also worth examining which of them have taken the most regular knocks and bumps for the cause.
Names that quickly come to my mind for urgent “feet up” recommendations for at least three weeks include, from the pack, the entire front row of Beast Mtawarira, Bismarck du Plessis and John Smit, both first-choice locks in Victor Matfield and Bakkies Botha, as well as No 8 Pierre Spies.
Seasoned blindside flank Juan Smith, of course, missed the final Tri-Nations Test against the All Blacks with an eleventh-hour injury and his own Currie Cup comeback may be strongly dependant on that.
Key architects of the Bok backline brew who deserve an opportunity to recharge batteries include the halfback pairing of Fourie du Preez (especially) and Morne Steyn, and certainly also Bryan Habana, who has put his body on the line admirably despite his out-wide position on the park.
The centre situation, of course, is more straightforward with Jean de Villiers off to Ireland now anyway, and Jaque Fourie ludicrously handed a four-week ban for a dangerous tackle on Ma’a Nonu at Hamilton.
Could it mean the No 13 has played his last match in a Lions jersey? It is an interesting thought considering that his suspension, effectively to start on September 26, would include a possible Currie Cup semi-final on October 17, and then the delicate saga of his intended switch of allegiance to Cape Town next year.
There are several “bench” – or even more peripheral than that – Boks who actually cry out for game-time, and this could appease certain provinces keen to beef their ranks in the Currie Cup league run-in.
Here the Bulls, for instance, would be extremely grateful to get back the likes of Danie Rossouw, Gurthro Steenkamp and Wynand Olivier almost immediately, while the Sharks would benefit richly, too, from fielding again Johann Muller, Jannie du Plessis, Ryan Kankowski and Adi Jacobs.
These are all players capable of luring additional bums to Currie Cup seats in the next few weeks, even if some gnarly Bok warriors were to stay out of the picture for a bit longer.
In that sense, at least some justice would be served because these are the two unions who sacrificed easily the largest number of players to the Bok squad and will have played the vast majority of the domestic campaign without them.
The log-leading Sharks, in particular — and to their credit — have managed to retain strong continuity despite shedding so many superstars, and their weekend triumph at Loftus means they are set fair for a home semi and possible final as well.
Province may have lost to a last-gasp penalty try in Bloemfontein – a priceless result for the resurgent Cheetahs – but they went home with two bonus points and remain very handily placed to at least finish second, considering the comfortable nature of their run-in, on paper.
But the Bulls are in a slightly less secure position, presently lying fifth with successive defeats to Western Province and the Sharks, and they are sure to pin their hopes on reaching a full-strength XV as rapidly as they can.
I still fancy deceptively third-placed Griquas, sadly, to miss the cut: their last four matches are about as tough as it possibly gets, and if they lose to the Lions in Kimberley this weekend they might as well bid the semis an early goodbye.
Here are the remaining fixtures, in order, for the semi-final contenders:
Sharks (presently 36 points): Cheetahs (h), Leopards (h), Lions (h), Griquas (a)
WP (34 points): Leopards (a), Griquas (h), Cavaliers (h), Lions (a)
Griquas (34 points): Lions (h), WP (a), Bulls (a), Sharks (h)
Cheetahs (29 points): Sharks (a), Bulls (a), Leopards (h), Cavaliers (a)
Blue Bulls (27 points): Cavaliers (a), Cheetahs (h), Griquas (h), Leopards (a)
Lions (26 points): Griquas (a), Cavaliers (h), Sharks (a), WP (h)
Courtesy of News 24Tweet