The Sharks won plenty of respect during their run to the final last season, however the clash with the Chiefs ultimately proved to be a game too far.
Having scraped into the play-offs - thanks in part to the final-day slump by the Brumbies - the Sharks upset defending champions the Reds in Brisbane before beating the Stormers, who had finished top of the table in the regular season, in Cape Town.
And although they couldn't maintain that run in the final, the Sharks will enter the 2013 season in good spirits.
They have a good core to the squad, with captain Keegan Daniel and the man-mountain that is Willem Alberts inspiring the pack, while JP Pietersen provides the X-Factor in the back division.
The enigmatic Frederic Michalak has returned to France, however John Plumtree has recruited wisely to replace him, with World Cup-winner Butch James set to run out in the black and white once again.
Franco van der Merwe also looks to be an astute signing from the Lions particularly as Ross Skeate and Steven Sykes have both moved on in the off-season.