Speaking from the team’s Italian base, Cell C Sharks head coach Sean Everitt believes that his team is in the right physical and mental space to get their campaign off to a good start.

“We’re happy to make amends from our start last year, all the South African teams struggled but we’re coming in with a bit more experience, we know what’s coming our way as far as the opposition is concerned. It’s not like last year when we were going into the unknown," said Everitt, warning that despite Zebre registering just one win in last season’s Vodacom URC campaign, that is all in the history books.

“Zebre will be a tough nut to crack at home. They put on a good performance against Leinster last weekend [going down 33-29] and I don’t think anyone would have believed the game would be so close; they were unfortunate not to get the result.

“We’re under no illusions as to what we’re facing on Friday night and we know this competition is unforgiving as some of the teams found out in the first weekend’s action.”

The Cell C Sharks are led by captain Thomas du Toit, with Boeta Chamberlain named at flyhalf and an old face returning to the team, Fred Zeilinga providing cover off the bench, where he is joined by two other new signings in prop Carlu Sadie and lock Justin Basson.

Janse van Rensburg, who has one Springbok cap to his name, makes his first official start, partnering with Ben Tapuai in the midfield.

Everitt said: “Preparations have gone well, apart from the injuries picked up by Curwin Bosch and Lionel Cronje, but Boeta showed enough in those pre-season friendlies against the Lions and Stormers that he’s ready to take over the number 10 jersey.”

The match kicks off at 18h30 and will be broadcast live on SuperSport.

Cell C Sharks: 15 Aphelele Fassi, 14 Werner Kok, 13 Ben Tapuai, 12 Rohan Janse van Rensburg, 11 Thaakir Abrahams, 10 Boeta Chamerlain, 9 Grant Williams, 8 Phepsi Buthelezi, 7 Dylan Richardson, 6 James Venter, 5 Reniel Hugo, 4 Gerbrandt Grobler, 3 Thomas du Toit (captain), 2 Kerron van Vuuren, 1 Ntuthuko Mchunu. Replacements: 16 Dan Jooste, 17 Dian Bleuler, 18 Carlu Sadie, 19 Justin Basson, 20 Sikhumbuzo Notshe, 21 Cameron Wright, 22 Fred Zeilinga, 23 Marnus Potgieter.