Sharks coach John Plumtree has named a team with an interesting blend of youth and experience for their opening Currie Cup clash with the Blue Bulls at Kings Park on Saturday.
The Sharks backline has a number of former international players in the shape of Stefan Terblanche, Marius Joubert and Frederic Michalak who will be expected to steer the ship and provide direction for the youngsters around them.
Plumtree is expecting a close battle between two sides that have both been hit hard by Springbok call-ups.
He said: "They are in same boat as us, both sides are depleted, so it will be interesting to see what type of game it is in terms of quality, the Bulls have always had strong depth and I'm sure they will put together a good side.
"We've come together quite nicely over the last couple of days and we will get better as it goes on. But there are a lot of players out from our normal group and we're just looking forward to getting into it," he added.
Outside centre Marius Joubert will make his debut for the Sharks, and although it has been a steep learning curve for him since arriving in Durban Plumtree is confident that he will find his feet quickly.
"It's been a pretty big week for him in terms of learning, but he understands the game, it comes natural to him, he knows every move in the book, he brings real calmness to us as well," commented the Sharks coach.
New Sharks captain Keegan Daniel is looking forward to another highly physical encounter between the two sides.
He said: "The Blue Bulls have been playing a particular style of rugby for a number of years and we know what to expect from them, I think it's always a great game when the two sides meet, it's really physical and they also have a young side themselves, so it's going to be interesting to see.
"I'm excited for our youngsters and for the team to come together and put out a great performance in the first week of the Currie Cup," he added.
One area in which the Sharks will need to step up is up front, with a lot of inexperienced players in their pack. If they can match the Bulls in the tight exchanges then they will have a good chance of starting their Currie Cup title defence on a winning note.
Plumtree was encouraged by the enthusiastic performance in their pre-season clash with the South Western Districts and he believes that the young Sharks pack has a few surprises in store for their more fancied rivals from Pretoria.
He commented: "The majority of the pack apart from a few loosies like Keegan and Jacques Botes who didn't play last week against SWD really encouraged me, there was a lot of commitment and intensity shown by that forward pack. I think our supporters will get a nice surprise as to how quickly this group could come together and be quite efficient."
Sharks: 15 Stefan Terblanche, 14 Louis Ludik, 13 Marius Joubert, 12 Meyer Bosman, 11 Mark Richards, 10 Frederic Michalak, 9 Ross Cronje, 8 Keegan Daniel (captain), 7 Marcell Coetzee, 6 Jacques Botes, 5 Ross Skeate, 4 Anton Bresler, 3 Wiehahn Herbst, 2 Craig Burden, 1 Eugene van Staden.
Replacements: 16 Kyle Cooper, 17 Dale Chadwick, 18 Jan Andre Marais, 19 Francois Kleinhans, 20 Jacobus Reinach, 21 Jacques-Louis Potgieter, 22 Sibusiso Sithole.
Date: Saturday, July 16
Kick-off: 17.05 (15.05 GMT)
Venue: King's Park, Durban
Referee: Jaco Peyper
Assistant referees: Lourens van der Merwe, Phillip Bosch
TMO: Shaun Veldsman
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