The wait for competitive rugby is finally over and, on Friday night, the Sharks will host the Lions at Kings Park as Super Rugby Unlocked gets underway.
Kick-off is at 19:00.
It has been over six months since Super Rugby 2020 was suspended as a result of the coronavirus, and while there has been local action over the past two weekends in the form of Super Fan Saturday and then the Springbok Showdown, the real domestic season starts now.
Seven sides will compete for two trophies - Super Rugby Unlocked and the Currie Cup - between now and 23 January next year.
On Saturday, the Cheetahs host the Pumas and the Bulls host Griquas, but Friday's night's clash in Durban is arguably the main event of the weekend.
The Sharks were top of the Super Rugby standings when the tournament was called off back in March, while the Lions were struggling to find their feet.
15 Manie Libbok, 14 JP Pietersen, 13 Lukhanyo Am (captain), 12 Marius Louw, 11 Werner Kok, 10 Curwin Bosch, 9 Sanele Nohamba, 8 Sikhumbuzo Notshe, 7 Phepsi Buthelezi, 6 James Venter, 5 Hyron Andrews, 4 Ruben van Heerden, 3 Thomas du Toit, 2 Dylan Richardson, 1 Ox Nche
Substitutes: 16 Dan Jooste, 17 Mzamo Majola, 18 John-Hubert Meyer, 19 JJ van der Mescht, 20 Mpilo Gumede, 21 Grant Williams, 22 Jeremy Ward, 23 Thaakir Abrahams
15 EW Viljoen, 14 Jamba Ulengo, 13 Burger Odendaal, 12 Dan Kriel, 11 Rabz Maxwane, 10 Elton Jantjies (captain), 9 Dillon Smit, 8 Len Massyn, 7 Vince Tshituka, 6 Jaco Kriel, 5 Marvin Orie, 4 Willem Alberts, 3 Carlu Sadie, 2 Jaco Visagie, 1 Sti Sithole
Substitutes: 16 Jan-Henning Campher, 17 Dylan Smith, 18 Wiehahn Herbst, 19 Wilhelm van der Sluys, 20 MJ Pelser, 21 Hacjivah Dayimani, 22 Morne van den Berg, 23 Gianni Lombard, 24 Wandisile Simelane, 25 Ruan Dreyer
There are two new coaches at the helm in Sean Everitt and Ivan van Rooyen, and both will be desperate to hit the ground running in this new-look competition.
With the Springboks expected to play in the 2020 Rugby Championship from 7 November, this is also an opportunity for a few players to put in performances worthy of national attention.
All over the park, there are tasty little duels that could unfold on Friday. Here, we take a look at a few of them.
1. Hyron Andrews v Marvin Orie
Lock has been a position of such depth and strength in South African rugby, and these two No 5s will know that all too well. Both featured prominently in the Springbok Showdown last weekend and with the Boks expected to take a massive squad to Australia if they go to the Rugby Championship, then there are opportunities for both Andrews and Orie. Lood de Jager, RG Snyman, Eben Etzebeth and Pieter-Steph du Toit are all injured while Franco Mostert is in Japan. There are places up for grabs and these two second-rowers can do themselves no harm with a clinical jumping display at lineout time while ticking the right boxes from open play too.
2. Curwin Bosch v Elton Jantjies
In the Springbok Showdown last weekend, Bosch replaced the out-of-sorts Damian Willemse for Team Gold and immediately looked more comfortable. If he is to continue that rise in the pecking order, then getting one over the World Cup-winning Jantjies will be a good place to start. In the absence of the injured Handre Pollard, Jantjies will be the first-choice Springbok flyhalf this year. Bosch, though, has a lot of work to do. His talent has never been in doubt, but there have been concerns at Springbok level over his defensive capabilities and overall game management. Now 23, Bosch needs to start displaying a maturity in his game. He was in superb form earlier in the year and will want to tap back into that level of performance.
3. James Venter v Jaco Kriel
Sharks coach Sean Everitt believes that Venter, still just 24, is the most natural fetcher the Durbanites have fielded in a long time. He was enjoying a breakthrough season in 2020 before Super Rugby was halted and was making serious waves around the country. Kriel, meanwhile, arrives back in South Africa following a three-year stint at Gloucester. Capped 11 times by the Springboks over 2016 and 2017, Kriel will feel like he still has more to offer. Venter, meanwhile, is only starting out on that journey. It is an intriguing dynamic with two players at very different stages of their careers, but ultimately after the same thing.
4. Lukhanyo Am v Burger Odendaal
The Sharks captain and 2019 World Cup hero only has 15 Test matches to his name, but he is being tipped as an option for the Springbok captaincy whenever Kolisi can't play. Over the last two years, Am has carved out a reputation for himself as the most complete No 13 in the country and he will always have eyes on him as a result. His opposite number on Friday, though, is a man who has been incredibly highly rated for a long time in South African rugby. Having been a mainstay at the Bulls for seven years in the No 12 jersey, Odendaal is now with the Lions via the Kubota Spears in Japan and he has shifted across to outside centre. His pairing with the promising Dan Kriel on Friday will be worth watching. Odendaal is still just 27 and is definitely good enough for higher honours, and squaring off against a player of Am's class and pedigree on Friday will be a thorough test of those credentials.