Beaten finalists last year against Counties, Otago kick off their 2013 ITM Cup campaign at home against Bay of Plenty on Sunday.
Without leading star Ben Smith, away on international duty with the All Blacks, Otago are still able to field a strong side.
Japanese international Fumiaki Tanaka will attract plenty of attention at scrum-half after an excellent season with the Highlanders. His English might remain a work in progress, but Tanaka is a dynamic weapon for the hosts.
In last year's ITM Cup, Tanaka flourished playing at half-back alongside the youthful Hayden Parker, with the duo reuniting once more.
Serious financial difficulties threatened to undermine Otago's future last season, but if anything the tough situation bonded the squad together more and set them on the path for greater things.
Bay of Plenty on the other hand come into the competition with Queensland Reds flanker Beau Robinson operating at openside flanker.
Two of their leading forwards are away with New Zealand in Brodie Retallick and Sam Cane. Their stalwart, Tanerau Latimer, is also unavailable.
Blending together three Australians, with Wallaby hooker Albert Anae on the bench, along with an Italian international in Josh Sole into the rest of the squad makes Bay of Plenty a slightly different proposition.
Pre-season for the Steamers has been all about the introduction of new players to ITM Cup rugby, and as a consequence their results have been far from spectacular.
That level of experience in the end seems likely to separate the two sides, especially in the backs, as both teams set out for a winning start in 2013.
Otago: 15 Tony Ensor, 14 Keiran Moffat, 13 Michael Collins, 12 Peter Breen, 11 Buxton Popoali'i, 10 Hayden Parker, 9 Fumiaki Tanaka, 8 Paul Grant (c), 7 Lee Allan, 6 Gareth Evans, 5 Tom Franklin, 4 Tom Donnelly, 3 Scott Manson, 2 Liam Coltman, 1 Craig Millar.
Replacements: 16 Sam Anderson-Heather, 17 Aki Seiuli, 18 Charlie O'Connell, 19 TJ Ioane, 20 Willis Scott, 21 Josh Renton, 22 Fa'asiu Fuatai.
Bay of Plenty: 15 Steve Honey, 14 Tino Nemani, 13 Kendrick Lynn, 12 Brett Mather, 11 Kimami Sitauti, 10 Willie Ripia, 9 Samisoni Fisilau, 8 Joe Tupe, 7 Beau Robinson, 6 Carl Axtens, 5 Josh Sole, 4 Tim Bond, 3 Josh Hohneck, 2 Joe Royal, 1 Kane Hames.
Replacements:16 Albert Anae, 17 Pingi Tala'apitaga, 18 Beau Williams, 19 Matt Clutterbuck, 20 Josh Hall, 21 Sam Beard, 22 Dave Thomas.
Date: Sunday 18, August
Venue: Forsyth Barr Stadium, Dunedin
Kick-off: 16:35 (04:35 GMT)
Referee: Mike Fraser