Waratahs coach Daryl Gibson says he will resist resting his Wallaby stars as long as NSW remain in the Super Rugby finals hunt.
The Waratahs sit fourth in the Australian conference with a 4-7 record after 11 games and sit two games behind conference leaders the Brumbies.
Games against the Reds, Jaguares and Rebels could be season-defining for the NSW side and wins will be the only way they can keep their finals hopes alive.
Gibson said the Waratahs have five players who need to be rotated out of the side as part of the Wallabies’ World Cup load management policy and just five more games to fulfil that requirement.
Prop Sekope Kepu and lock Rob Simmons are yet to miss a game while other senior Wallabies including captain Michael Hooper have only missed one in what is believed to be a two-game allocation.
“We've got five to go, a game each at some stage,” Gibson said.
“At this stage, we're not going to rotate those guys, we need to give ourselves the maximum opportunity to win games so for present mind they'll be staying in.”
The return of prop Tom Robertson in the past fortnight has added more depth to the Waratahs’ front row and opened the door for Kepu to sit out a game but Gibson said that wouldn’t happen against the Reds this weekend.
“Tom's had an excellent return,” he said.
“He'd be close to a start this weekend.
“I'm really pleased for him.
“It's an opportune time for him, as we approach times when we know we're going to have to rest Sekope at some point and we're looking to try and grow Tom's time on the tighthead side.”
The stance could leave the Waratahs with a situation in the final weeks of the season where a handful of their big names are sidelined.
Gibson said he was comfortable with that prospect.
“Absolutely,” he said.
“The strategy from here on in is we know we need to win games and we can manage the back end of the season when we get to it.”
The Waratahs’ first challenge after a two-week tour of Africa is against the Reds in Brisbane.
NSW has won the sides’ past 10 encounters and Gibson said despite their recent Super Rugby form, it was a match they would find extra motivation for.
“It's a game our boys enjoy playing, there's an extra spice in it, particularly the way the Reds approach the game as well,” he said.
“So, plenty on the line, a lot of history between the teams.
“Historically it's one of our oldest rivalries so it's something extra, meaning in this game.”
NSW will face a big test at scrum time against the Reds, an area where they have been caught out at times in recent weeks.
The Waratahs were on the end of a 11-2 penalty tally in a 29-18 loss to the Lions last weekend, including a run of six penalties against them late in the game though the side was clearly frustrated, Gibson said they hadn’t taken any extra moves to address SANZAAR about referee Egon Seconds.
“We regularly talk to SANZAAR and have got regular correspondence with Lyndon (referee boss Lyndon Bray) and we’ll put our usual submissions in that we do every weekend.”
The Waratahs take on the Reds on Saturday May 18 at Suncorp Stadium, kicking off at 7:45pm AEST, LIVE on FOX SPORTS, Kayo and via RUGBY.com.au RADIO.