Stormers coach Allister Coetzee says it is imperative that his side get off to a good start if they are to break their Super Rugby drought this year.
The Cape franchise have an unenviable draw to launch their title surge this season beginning with a tough away fixture against arch-rivals the Bulls at Loftus Versfeld on February 22.
The following week they play the Sharks in Durban in a crucial South African conference clash before they host the defending champion Chiefs in their first home game of the season seven days later.
The Stormers made the most of their draw last year and got their campaign off to a perfect start with home wins over the Hurricanes and the Sharks before their first bye in Round Three.
Their task is substantially more challenging this year but Coetzee said it is vital that his charges emulate their fast start of 2012 to position themselves well for the remainder of the season.
"The big thing is to start well. You don’t want to get on the back foot and lose a couple of games on the trot," Coetzee said.
"We’re aware that our opening game is a big one away from home and it’s going to be a tough one but everything we do, including Saturday’s game against Boland, is aimed at getting it right on the 22nd."
Coetzee said the second challenge is play consistently well and to ensure there is constant improvement throughout the season.
"It’s a long competition. We’ve seen teams who were never in the running and still made the play-offs and teams who started strong, but come the play-offs, were finished," he said.
"It’s a matter of building an upward curve and making sure the graph picks up every time we play.
"Although we’re playing top quality sides, it’s important that we tick off certain things like our workrate and our physicality."
Coaches got their first taste of what to expect from the extended 15-team campaign last year and accordingly to Coetzee, the greatest lesson learned was the importance of depth and competent man management.
"Depth is vital, that’s why we try to grow a bigger squad. It’s important to play your best players at the back end of the competition and have your strongest side possible to play in play-offs," Coetzee said.
"With the quality [of players] we have I think we can do that and use rotation effectively. You can’t rotate if you don’t have the experience and class in your depth.
"When Schalla [Schalk Burger] comes back we will have a good combination of loose forwards. Siya [Kolisi] can play six and seven, Rynhardt [Elstadt] can play seven or four, Duane [Vermeulen] can even play four and six and he’s a good seven, so that’s the kind of versatility we’re looking for in our squad system.
"You never win a competition with just a certain number of players alone, you have to tap into your depth."