Durban - Sharks captain Keegan Daniel is confident a successful Currie Cup campaign, beginning against Griquas in Durban on Friday, will help him and his teammates put their season of turbulence behind them.
The coastal franchise, runners-up in the competition last year when they lost to Western Province in the final but, more recently, ended the Super Rugby competition in eighth position and also unceremoniously severed ties with former coach John Plumtree.
"This year was a learning curve for a lot of people.
"We started pretty well in Super Rugby, but sport is one of things that can change overnight," Daniel said this week as he reflected back on 2013 so far.
"Unfortunately, it didn’t work out for us in the end, but winning the Currie Cup would be great. We’ve had the privilege of doing it twice since I’ve been here.
"We’ve been pretty good contenders, so I guess it would round off a year of changes and some turbulence with a cherry on top."
The Sharks had started the year promisingly by winning five out of their opening six games, but it all went wrong from there.
Only three more wins came from their next 10 games, leading to Plumtree's contract not being renewed by new chief executive John Smit -- the former coach initially found out the news via the media.
Smit, the ex-Springbok captain, has since appointed Brendan Venter as the new director of rugby, with Sean Everitt named backline coach and Brad Macleod-Henderson in charge of the forwards.
Daniel, retained as captain for the season, welcomed the arrival of new technical team.
Daniel said Venter coming into the setup would greatly benefit the team.
"Brendan has brought in a few new tactical and structural things, which worked really well at Saracens.
"I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the pre-season training, we’ve worked very hard and had a lot to get through, but it’s been good.
"You can see his passion and involvement in training, and he just wants to see a high work rate from all the players.
"He’s very intelligent, he’s done his homework and is very thorough.
"I think the guys have enjoyed the new voice and a new way of thinking."
Friday's opponents Griquas have proved a bogey side for the Sharks in recent seasons, but Daniel was confident of a winning start against them.
"This is a new group and we know they will be tough and physical.
"We know what to expect and it’s more about sticking to our structures and game plan."
Both teams have named four debutants in their teams with winger Sizo Maseko, locks Marco Wentzel and Edwin Hewitt and Rayno Gerber included by the hosts.
The visitors named lock Hilton Lobberts, centre Howard Mnisi, wing Nico Scheepers and fullback Gouws Prinsloo in their side.
15. Odwa Ndungane, 14. Sizo Maseko, 13. Louis Ludik, 12. Tim Whitehead, 11. Lwazi Mvovo, 10. Butch James, 9. Charl McLeod, 8. Keegan Daniel (captain), 7. Jean Deysel, 6. Brynard Stander, 5. Marco Wentzel, 4. Edwin Hewitt, 3. Wiehahn Herbst, 2. Kyle Cooper, 1. Dale Chadwick
Substitutes: 16. Craig Burden, 17. Rayno Gerber, 18. Peet Marais, 19. Tera Mtembu, 20. Cobus Reinach, 21. Fred Zeilinga, 22. Jaco van Tonder
15 Gouws Prinsloo, 14 Nico Scheepers, 13 JP Nel, 12 Howard Mnisi, 11 PJ Vermeulen, 10 Francois Brummer, 9 Jacques Coetzee, 8 Burger Schoeman, 7 Jaco Nepgen, 6 Marnus Schoeman, 5 Ligtoring Landman, 4 Hilton Lobberts, 3 Lourens Adriaanse, 2 Ryno Barnes (captain), 1 Steph Roberts
Substitutes: 16 Matt Dobson, 17 Nick Schonert, 18 Jonathan Adendorf, 19 Carel Greeff, 20 Marnus Hugo, 21 Du Randt Gerber, 22 Rocco Jansen