Sharks director of rugby Jake White has blamed his side's late-season implosion on a heavy workload, but still believes they can go on to win the competition.
Defeats to the Stormers in Durban in late May and the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein on Saturday have seen the Sharks slip from first on the combined log to third. To finish second and secure a home semi-final, they now have to beat the Stormers at Newlands on Saturday and hope the Crusaders slip up against the Highlanders.
White blamed the amount of rugby his team has played over the past three months for their latest setback.
'The Sharks players spent themselves in the four weeks that they were playing for the Springboks and also being involved with the camp leading into those games,' the coach said. 'Consider that those players have played for 12 weeks in a row. That is three months without missing a Saturday. Three months of having to front up on Saturdays without taking a break does take its toll. I have no doubt that it's not the Australasian tour, it's just the workload that is catching up to the players.'
White insisted the Sharks could still win their first Super Rugby title.
'Everyone assumes that if you finish third in the competition going into the play-offs, you have absolutely no chance; you may as well call off the competition when the teams finish first and second. This team [the Sharks] has won the [South African] conference, they have 46 points and still have a chance of getting a home semi-final but if it doesn't happen it's only the first year [of White's tenure]. Everybody is so negative about the fact that 'gee, they can't win the competition anymore'. I still think we have a massive chance of winning this competition and I still believe we can.'
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