The University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) will be using the final stages of their preparations for the inaugural Varsity Shield to trim their squad down - to the required 35 players - ahead of the tournament's January 31 start.
There are five separate campuses that make up the University of KZN, and each of them play in a different division of the KZNRU League.
The Pietermaritzburg campus, whose club side plays in the highest division in the KZNRU League, has formed the base from which the squad for the Varsity Shield has been assembled.
With a chance to qualify for next year's Varsity Cup tournament up for grabs, the players have been giving it their all during pre-season training to ensure that they are competitive and in with a shout when the business-end of the new competition arrives in April.
And, according to UKZN team manager Shane le Breton, the players are looking forward to getting their chance to shine on the big stage - albeit in the so-called second tier of the Varsity Cup.
"We have been training since October last year, so conditioning-wise the guys are pretty well done," he told varsitycup.co.za.
As a bonus, UKZN have also lined up warm-up games against strong opposition as they look to hit the ground running for their first fixture against the University of the Western Cape which will be televised (albeit delayed) on SuperSport on Monday, January 31.
Le Breton explained: "We have a pre-season warm-up against the TUT Vikings next weekend (January 22) and we are hoping to get another one against Pukke for the same weekend."
However, that is not the full extent of their preparations, UKZN are also very lucky to have a strong union to turn to for support and the Sharks - the reigning Currie Cup champions - will also be getting involved in helping with their training for the Varsity Shield.
"We have organised a few scrimmages against the Wildebeest and the Sharks XV to try and up our level of competition we are playing against to see just how ready we are ahead of the competition," added Le Breton.
All of this should give the team management a very good idea of the players and combinations they will be relying on to bring home the Shield title.
"Currently we have a squad of 52 players which has to be cut down to 35 for the competition," said Le Breton.
"Although we haven't finalised specific combinations as such, everybody knows the structures and everyone knows the moves. We are just in the process of trying to make that final judgement call."
By Michael de Vries