With more than an entire starting XV away on international duty, the defending Currie Cup champion Sharks will be introducing a lot of young players to South Africa's premier domestic competition.
The Sharks start the defence of their title when they host the multiple-champion Blue Bulls in Durban on Saturday.
However, they know they will be minus all their Springboks for the entire campaign.
"If I'm right, we've lost about 16 players for our campaign, so it's a huge opportunity for a lot of youngsters," assistant coach Hugh Reece-Edwards said on the Sharks' website.
"Last year, we had a lot of injured guys coming back from the Boks and playing, but this being a World Cup year, we are not going to have that.
"There are a lot of youngsters who've come in, and there's a lot of excitement, a lot of talent along with a few old heads, and we're round about 50-50 with that.
"So we're probably going to have a younger side than we have had before - not necessarily in years, but in heads in terms of experience - and that's exciting.
"It's fantastic when you come to training and there are new faces. The older guys have a huge responsibility bringing the younger ones through and the younger ones have huge boots to fill of those who aren't here."
From the team that beat Western Province 30-10 in last year's final only ?? are like to feature in this year's campaign.
They are Steven Sykes, Keegan Daniel, Stefan Terblanche (likely captain), Louis Ludik, Craig Burden, Eugene van Staden, Anton Bresler, Jacques Botes.
Tendai Mtawarira, Bismarck du Plessis, Jannie du Plessis, Alistair Hargreaves, Willem Alberts, Ryan Kankowski, Charl McLeod, Patrick Lambie, Lwazi Mvovo, Odwa Ndungane, Jean Deysel, Adrian Jacobs, JP Pietersen and John Smit are all on international duty at present and only a handful of them are likely to return once the cut for the World Cup is made.
Also having moved on, after last year's Final are Andries Strauss (to the Cheetahs), André Pretorius (Lions) and Riaan Swanepoel (France).
The weight of expectation will no doubt hang over The Sharks - as it does at the start of each campaign - but the challenge is one they have overcome in the past and there is no reason why they cannot do it again.
"There is a certain amount of pressure to perform, for everyone, but that's what this game is all about and that's what we aim for and strive for - how we want to defend this cup - and it all starts this weekend with one of the tougher challenges we could have," Reece-Edwards said.
"But right away, it also gives us an idea of exactly where we are and how the personnel we have can perform going forward.
"As a home game, it's vitally important to get a good result, we have to look at making our home ground a fortress and looking after our results at home."
The Sharks backline has not been too badly affected in terms of numbers missing to the Bok cause, and they boast players in Stefan Terblanche, Marius Joubert, Meyer Bosman, Louis Ludik and Frederic Michalak who all have plenty of experience.
Certainly, they will have a role to play in guiding the younger players.
"They come with experience, and then there are guys like Mark Richards who has been hanging around for a while, Sbura Sithole and Paul Jordaan who have played with the SA Sevens, Heimar Williams has looked good and Ross Cronje is with us as well, so there are a lot of youngsters who have been waiting for the opportunity and we'd be stupid not to try to bring them in from time to time to see exactly what we do have, because straight after this, we're getting ready for the next campaign - there's no time really.
"So we have to see what we have, where we're short, where we aren't. It's a nice mix, half the guys are old and experienced, the others are young and excited and it's great to coach a group like this."
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