Bulls captain Pierre Spies is determined to raise his game in a bid to win back the Springbok number eight jersey.
A dip in form followed by a broken thumb paved the way for an overdue Bok debut for Stormers star Duane Vermeulen, who took to Test rugby like a duck to water.
Spies missed South Africa's disappointing Rugby Championship campaign and their successful end-of-year tour, but is now ready to make up for lost time.
"Competition is always good," Spies told supersport.
"My injury came at the right time and it gave me a lot more perspective, as well as a decent rest. It allowed me to recharge, to find a renewed focus and vision for the year ahead.
"It reminded me how much I want to play for the Springboks again.
"You always have to prove yourself, whether it is to the public, the coach or to yourself. I know I owe myself a good season and I'm looking forward to the challenge."
After leading the three-time Super Rugby champions to the play-offs last year (where they lost to the Crusaders), Spies will once again wear the captain's armband and is confident his team can go one better in 2013.
"Everyone is a year older now and we have a lot more experience. We know each other better and we're in a good space at the moment as a team," he said.
"Last year was a difficult year for everyone, but we've had a good break and have returned more mature. We're really looking forward to the battles that await us."