In our next Super Rugby preview we take a look at the Sharks who did well to reach the play-offs in 2011 but, after missing out on the semis at the hands of the Crusaders, will look to make vast improvements this season.
The Durban-based franchise has lost a large chunk of their 2011 talent pool with Adrian Jacobs departing along with Jacques-Louis Potgieter, Riaan Swanepoel, Gerhard Mostert and Eugene van Staden who are all currently plying their trade in France.
The loss of veterans John Smit and Stefan Terblanche to Northern Hemisphere rugby will no doubt be a big blow but the Sharks have done well to prepare for this anticipated move, which by no means weakens their squad.
Meanwhile, the acquisitions of Tim Whitehead, Riaan Viljoen, Wandile Mjekevu and Marius Joubert will certainly bolster the Sharks' backline this season.
Coach John Plumtree has opted to experiment with several positional switches as Springbok JP Pietersen may be preferred at centre this season, while French international Frederic Michalak has made clear his intention to settle at scrumhalf as he works to regain a place in his national side. The switch means star playmaker Patrick Lambie will have the chance to perform at 10.
In the forwards, captain Keegan Daniel looks set for another big year while all eyes will also be on Bismarck du Plessis as he takes control at hooker without the pressure of working in Smit's shadow.
The loss of Tendai 'Beast' Mtawarira is a massive blow, however, and his injury will no doubt put strain on the team's front-row stock. Mtawarira will return to action towards the middle of the tournament.
Prediction: The Sharks should make the play-offs and will definitely compete to top the South African conference.
Extended 2012 Sharks squad:
Willem Alberts, Meyer Bosman, Jacques Botes, Anton Bresler, Craig Burden, Dale Chadwick, Marcell Coetzee, Kyle Cooper, Keegan Daniel, Jean Deysel, Monde Hadebe, Alistair Hargreaves, Wiehahn Herbst, Conrad Hoffman, Paul Jordaan, Marius Joubert, Ryan Kankowski, Francois Kleinhans, Patrick Lambie, Louis Ludik, Jan Andre Marais, Peet Marais, Charl McLeod, Frederic Michalak, Wandile Mjekevu, Tendai Mtawarira, Lubabalo Mtembu, Lwazi Mvovo, Odwa Ndungane, JP Pietersen, Bismarck du Plessis, Jannie du Plessis, Gouws Prinsloo, Julain Redelinghuys, Cobus Reinach, Sibusiso Sithole, Ross Skeate, Steven Sykes, Pieter-Steph du Toit, Tim Whitehead, Heimar Williams, Riaan Viljoen.