The Sharks face a tough task against their neighbours, the Cheetahs in what promises to be an entertaining derby in Durban on Saturday.
Playing at home will boost the hosts who will start as favourites after their recent victory over Toulon in their battle of the hemipsheres in France.
The Cheetahs, however, lost both their pre-season fixtures to the Bulls and Stormers and will be just as eager as their hosts to get their campaign off to a good start.
The visitors are an unpredictable and dangerous side who have proven in past campaigns that they have the ability to shock more fancied sides. The Sharks know this well, as their recent matches against have all been closely contested.
New Sharks coach Gary Gold, who joined the team last week, after completing his coaching stin in Japan expects the Cheetahs to present a stern test
“For me, the Cheetahs are one of the most dangerous sides to play against and on their day they have the ability to beat any team,” explained Gold.
“Our guys have prepared well for the tournament and there is a fantastic spirit in the camp. We want to play an exciting brand of rugby that our fans demand, and score tries.
"The only way to win matches is to score tries and to do that you need to keep the ball in hand. Our players are determined and will give nothing less than 100% effort on the park.”
Cheetahs boss Naka Drotske is a man on a mission in 2015. Drotske did not coach the Cheetahs in last year's Currie Cup after the Bloemfontein-based union decided to send him to the UK to gain more coaching insight.
He will be expected to impart that knowledge in this year's Super Rugby competition – a tournament which the Cheetahs have always punched above their weight.
The last time these team met: The Cheetahs caused a huge upset when they trounced their more-fancied neighoburs 27-20 in their Round 18 clash in Bloemfontein last year. Torsten van Jaarsveld, Philip van der Walt and Lood de Jager scored tries for the home side while Johan Goosen contributed 12 points via two penalties and three conversions. The result was a significant one for the Sharks as it played its part in them finishing the season in third place in the standings which denied them a home semi-final.
Players to watch: Both sides have plenty of talented players in key positions but in Patrick Lambie the Sharks have a rejuvenated player who finished the 2014 season as South Africa's first-choice fly-half. Lambie will be determined to build on those showings and should keep the visitors' defence guessing with his superb attacking skills and solid goal-kicking. Also keep an eye on young Bok lock Pieter-Steph du Toit who will be keen to return to action after a lengthy spell on the sidelines with a knee injury. The Cheetahs will once again rely heavily on the game-breaking ability of springbok full-back Willie le Roux while fellow Bok Oupa Mohoje will also be keen to impress in his first season as a regular starter for the Bloemfontein-based side.
Team news: Former England lock Mouritz Botha will make his Super Rugby debut in the Sharks' second row alongside Du Toit. Another debutant for the hosts is former Pumas back-row Renaldo Bothma who starts on the blindside flank. They've also selected the experienced Bok front row of Bismarck and Jannie du Plessis and Tendai Mtawarira. Amongst the backs, former Bok centre Waylon Murray returns to the Sharks' starting line-up for the first time since 2010 after spells at the Lions, Kings and Bulls. Pietersen's selection at fly-half – alongside veteran scrum-half Sarel Pretorius – is the big news for the visitors. Willie le Roux and Raymond Rhule are familiar faces amongst the backs while former WP and Stormers centre Michael van der Spuy makes his Cheetahs debut in the number 12 jersey. Up front, ex Lions stalwart Willie Britz is also making his first appearance at number eight.
Prediction: There's plenty of hype about the Sharks' chances this year and they will be too strong for the Cheetahs in their own backyard. Sharks to win by 12 points!
2014: Cheetahs won 20-27 in Bloemfontein
2014: Sharks won 19-8 in Durban
2013: Cheetahs won 12-6 in Durban
2013: Sharks won 29-22 in Bloemfontein
2012: Sharks won 34-15 in Durban
Sharks: 15 SP Marais, 14 S’bura Sithole, 13 Waylon Murray, 12 Heimar Williams, 11 Lwazi Mvovo, 10 Patrick Lambie, 9 Cobus Reinach, 8 Tera Mtembu, 7 Renaldo Bothma, 6 Marcell Coetzee, 5 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 4 Mouritz Botha, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Bismarck du Plessis (c), 1 Tendai Mtawarira.
Replacements: 16 Kyle Cooper, 17 Dale Chadwick, 18 Matt Stevens, 19 Marco Wentzel, 20 Jean Deysel, 21 Conrad Hoffmann, 22 Fred Zeilinga, 23 Odwa Ndungane.
Cheetahs: 15 Willie le Roux, 14 Clayton Blommetjies, 13 Francois Venter, 12 Michael van der Spuy, 11 Raymond Rhule, 10 Joe Petersen, 9 Sarel Pretorius, 8 Willie Britz, 7 Oupa Mohoje, 6 Jean Cook, 5 Francois Uys (c), 4 Lodewyk de Jager, 3 Coenie Oosthuizen, 2 Torsten van Jaarsveld, 1 Danie Minnie
Replacements: 16 Stephan Coetzee, 17 BG Uys, 18 Maks van Dyk, 19 Carl Wegner, 20 Boom Prinsloo, 21 Tian Meyer, 22 Willie du Plessis, 23 Cornal Hendricks
Date: Saturday, February 14
Kick-off: 17:05 local (15:05 GMT)
Venue: Kings Park, Durban
Referee: Andrew Lees (Australia)
Assistant referees: Rohan Hoffmann (Australia), Archie Sehlako (South Africa)
Television match officials: Marius Jonker (South Africa)