Sharks flanker Marcell Coetzee has admitted that the competition for places among the loose forwards is keeping him on his toes as the Super Rugby leaders look to maintain their strong start to the competition.
The coastal franchise returned to training refreshed this week after a bye during the last round of matches, with their next opponents coming in the form of the Lions up in Johannesburg on Saturday.
"The competition among loose forwards in South Africa is insane," Coetzee said on Monday.
"With the amount of loose forwards around, I think our extra loosies can fill any international team anyway. So it does challenge you and you have to be on top of your game in every game in Super Rugby.
"The competition is so fierce, it's actually healthy because it brings out the best in you."
The Springbok forward has formed a formidable back-row partnership with Willem Alberts and the rejuvenated Ryan Kankowski -- the three having dominated against most opponents this season.
The likes of Jean Deysel, Keegan Daniel and Tera Mtembu have all had to make do with playing second fiddle.
"I'm very happy with my form, but have to give credit to my team-mates for that," Coetzee said.
"Our combination is one that's growing, the chemistry is also growing each week and we just want to get better.
"Ryan and Willem both have their roles, but they're exceptional players to be playing with."
Coetzee was hoping his form would warrant him being selected for the Springboks in the number-six jersey, which was occupied by Francois Louw for a large part of last season.
"It's a goal that everyone's after, but I'm focusing more on Super Rugby for now," he said.
Jake White's men are on top of both the South African Conference and overall log with 23 points from six games.
The Sharks have been at home for all their wins, while their solo loss has come on the Highveld against the Bulls.
"We had a break now and that was very good for us as a team, getting away from things," Coetzee said.
"We're back now and have to pick up where we left off in the last game and give everything."
He warned against any complacency against the Lions, who are third domestically and seventh overall.
"I think the important thing is not to get loose out there," he said.
"I've seen some of the teams and they look a bit weary and shaken up (at this point of the season). We need to stay focused and we have to get it right every week."