The Absa Currie Cup kicks-off this evening, but the usual fanfare that accompanies such an event has been dimmed.
The biggest news this week is the career-threatening neck injury sustained by Schalk Burger, while the showdown between the Springboks and France has been at the forefront of rugby chat for days.
But the Currie Cup, without itâ€™s Springboks, continues regardless, with the most anticipated clash undoubtedly the Sharks v Lions in Durban.
That match marks a major milestone for hard-working Sharks flank Warren Britz â€“ it will be his 50th appearance in the competition.
â€œIâ€™m actually quite chuffed itâ€™s in a big game against the Lions and also that it is being played at Kingâ€™s Park,â€ Britz told keo.co.za.
Britz almost achieved the goal last year, but concussion ruled him out of the Sharks final round-robin match against the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein. They lost that game 17-3, but tonight they are firm favourites to get off to a winning start.
â€œThe Lions are always a physical team and they have some quality players. And they will be especially dangerous after the bad run by the Cats in the Super 14. We are taking nothing for granted.â€
Britz feels the fact that the Sharks did not have a warm-up match will actually count in their favour later on in the match. â€œThe first 10 to 15 minutes we are sure to be a bit rusty, but as the game goes on we will get stronger. The rest has done us wonders.â€
The other matches this evening see the Pumas host Western Province, while the Falcons travel to Loftus Versfeld to play the Bulls. On Saturday the defending champion Cheetahs meet Griquas in the central derby in Bloemfontein.
By Andrew Hollely