Hurricanes coach Mark Hammett, having learned some valuable lessons from a tumultuous 2011, said he is ready to tackle a very tough 2012 season.
The departure of All Blacks Ma'a Nonu, Andrew Hore, Piri Weepu, Aaron Cruden and Hosea Gear - after a much-publicised fall-out with the coach in mid-season - still rankles with some Wellington supporters, Hammett said its time to move on.
He didn't fill those gaps with any blockbusting signings, but he is still looking forward to next season.
Samoan flyhalf Tusi Pisi and inside back Tim Bateman are two of the higher-calibre recruits, while former Chiefs prop Ben May will add some grunt to a very inexperienced front row.
Journeyman scrumhalf Chris Smylie, who arrives from the Blues, may prove to be a crafty addition, but a lot of the names need a second reading to confirm who they are.
Thankfully for Hammett and assistant coach Alama Ieremia they were able to hold on to the services of World Cup-winning All Blacks Conrad Smith, Cory Jane and Victor Vito.
"There has to be lessons learned out of 2011, but we have to shut the book and squeeze the lessons out of it and look forward to 2012," Hammett told a media gathering in Wellington.
"There's no doubt I'm going to be smarter.
"If it was easy and we went through and got better results maybe I wouldn't have learnt as much.
"To be quite honest, 2012 is my focus, very much so.
We've been flat out this last three or four months around selection and game plan and how we will improve on last year. We hope there will be a few more smiles and a bit more fun out on that field."
No captain has been named, but All Blacks Conrad Smith and Victor Vito are the obvious candidates for a position that will be announced in the new year.
The only player picked up in the draft was former Tasman and Bay of Plenty prop Tristan Moran, who along with young Wellingtonian Reg Goodes are two of five props in an area Hammett admits will be challenging.
"That's an issue right across the board, perhaps with the exception of the Crusaders it's an area for New Zealand rugby that needs to be strengthened... we are inexperienced, but we have a lot of experience around the front row if you look at Jason Eaton and Jeremy Thrush, Victor Vito, Karl Lowe, even our hookers Dane and David Hall.
"We will have to work hard and at times adjust our game plan to be smart. But I remember three or four years ago selecting Owen Franks as our No 4 prop [at the Crusaders] and at the end of the year he was in the All Blacks. Who is to say one of these boys won't come through and do that."
Though the squad is young, Hammett believes there is enough experience among the 17 forwards and 15 backs to ensure it is competitive with 23 players back from last year.
"For us we are under no illusions this year is going to be tough. But for us to be competitive we know we have to play to our potential week in week out, but that's an opportunity and it's exciting.
"I certainly believe that this team can be competitive. We can win games. You don't want to throw things out there but the simple fact is 15 players get selected to start a game, you get 22 in the squad so that means you've got 10 players that aren't going to play each week."
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