Now the next tier gets to operate at this level
Despite having to field a virtual second-string selection, Sharks coach John Plumtree is adamant his team will make the step up in the Currie Cup competition.
The Sharks, beaten finalists last year, head to Newlands on Saturday where they get their campaign underway against Western Province.
However, the team will look nothing like the side that overwhelmed the Stormers in the Super Rugby semifinal at the same venue late last month.
They will be missing 14 first-choice players, including all their current Springboks - Willem Alberts, Marcell Coetzee, captain Keegan Daniel, Bismarck du Plessis, Jannie du Plessis, Patrick Lambie, Tendai Mtawarira, Lwazi Mvovo, JP Pietersen (out injured) and Frans Steyn.
Province have lost six players to the Boks - Andries Bekker, captain Jean de Villiers, Eben Etzebeth (injured), Bryan Habana, Siya Kolisi and Juan de Jongh. However, the Cape Town outfit had the luxury of a week off.
"We've lost 10 players to the Boks," Sharks coach John Plumtree said, adding: "Two more in Ryan Kankowski [to Japan] and Fred Michalak [back to France] headed abroad, while Pieter-Steph du Toit and Tim Whitehead are out with injury.
"We have an almost full side unavailable.
"Now the next tier gets to operate at this level and for me [it is] an opportunity to develop some players, to see if they are ready for Super Rugby next year."
The Sharks will have a mix of some experience and plenty of youth in this year's Currie Cup campaign.
There are some stalwarts to guide the youngsters - three Springboks and a number of veterans of numerous campaigns who will look to be the calming influence around the exuberance of youth.
While the Currie Cup provides the breeding ground for future stars, it also issues up a challenge to the participating teams, a challenge the Sharks said they will gladly accept.
Sharks squad: Meyer Bosman, Jacques Botes, Anton Bresler, Craig Burden, Dale Chadwick, Kyle Cooper (injured), Jean Deysel, Pieter-Steph du Toit (injured), Monde Hadebe, Wiehahn Herbst, Conrad Hoffmann, Paul Jordaan, Marius Joubert, Francois Kleinhans, Louis Ludik, Jandre Marais, Peet Marais, Charl McLeod, Lubabalo Mtembu, Odwa Ndungane, Gouws Prinsloo, Julian Redelinghuys, Cobus Reinach, Sbura Sithole, Rosko Specman, Steven Sykes, Riaan Viljoen, Tim Whitehead (injured).