Highlanders head coach Jamie Joseph believes his squad are in better condition for the 2014 season than ahead of last year.
Despite producing plenty of entertaining rugby in 2013, the Highlanders finished 14th in last year's competition with only three wins from their 16 matches - including a lowly points difference of -122.
The outgoings list for the Highlanders ahead of this season is fairly alarming, with Tony Woodcock, Jamie Mackintosh, Andrew Hore, Colin Slade, Tamati Ellison, Ma'a Nonu, Hosea Gear and others all moving on.
That leaves Ben Smith and Aaron Smith as the only two current All Blacks in the squad, with Jarrod Hoeata and Brad Thorn providing experience in the second row, but Joseph is viewing the fact that the majority of his squad have been together for most of pre-season, rather than recovering from internationals, as a positive.
"That's quite pleasing in terms of our preparation," Joseph told Fairfax Media.
"Whether we are good enough to play the likes of the Blues and the Chiefs is what we'll be measured on in terms of the scoreboard, but going into it we'll be better prepared than we were last year."
Another tough year for the Highlanders would put pressure on Joseph's position as head coach, but he believes that the Dunedin franchise are capable of bringing through plenty of talent.
"Successful teams are measured in different ways," added Joseph.
"One of them is on the scoreboard and another is how many guys we are bringing through, guys who were no-names.
"With that in mind there's a hell of a lot of those [no-names] in our team this year. There's lots of reasons and lots of ways to measure the performance of a coach."