The Hawke's Bay Magpies have named a 35-member squad this year with 18 of them never having played for the team before.
The injection of new blood in the mix is a conscious drive on a dose of optimism and realism to nurture homegrown emerging talent in the province.
"Ideally, we want to select from the province and our local schools," said Magpies coach Mark Ozich after the naming the squad in tandem with forwards coach Josh Syms for the Mitre 10 Cup campaign in the second-tier Championship of the 13th national provincial championship.
However, Ozich said there were exceptions to the rules where talent could gravitate to club rugby to stake their claim to a jersey.
Seventeen players are returning from last season while all but one of the 35 named, utility back Stacey Ili, played their club rugby in the Bay.
Six members of last year's unbeaten national champion Hastings Boys' High School 1st XV side punctuate the blend the coaching stable has assembled to weave some magic from "experience and youthful exuberance".
Ozich, a former HBHS 1st XV mentor, said the pre-season matches so far had offered the promising and talented newcomers the opportunity to gain some exposure.
"It's a big step up to the pace and physicality of the [cup] for those young guys so they can get a feel for it ... so the idea is to blood them through over time."
That would vary for individuals, from a few months to a year or two, to make adjustments to fulfil their portfolios.
"It's all part of it in managing those young guys. You don't want to set them up to fail or throw them in the deep end without any support."
The HBHS players are halfback Folau Fakatava, loosie Devan Flanders, hooker Kianu Kereru-Symes, first five-eighth Lincoln McClutchie, prop Josiah Tavita-Metcalfe and outside back Danny Toala.
Ozich said throw in the mix the likes of NOBM loosie Will Tremain, Hastings Rugby and Sports No 8 Marino Mikaele-Tu'u, Pirates prop Pouri Rakete-Stones, Hastings winger Mason Emerson and Clive outside back Jonah Lowe — in their early 20s — the youthfulness of the squad becomes more accentuated.
NTOB prop and 2017 world champion Baby Black Tim Farrell, while named, has been ruled out of the season with a shoulder injury while All Black lock Brodie Retallick isn't expected to to turn out due to international duties.
MAC loose forward Solomone Funaki has been included as temporary injury cover for NOBM loosie Hannon Brighouse who is expected to be out for the first month due to a knee injury.
Highlanders/NOTB hooker Ash Dixon will again lead the Magpies but in his absence Ozich will have the option to ask Hurricanes/Havelock North loosie Gareth Evans or Chiefs/NOBM halfback Brad Weber to assume the mantle of captaincy.
Other seasoned customers include Pirates lock Michael Allardice, Central prop Ben May, Hastings prop Jason Long and club mate/lock Geoff Cridge.
Ozich said the Magpies would endeavour to compete in every game when the cup begins from August 16.
"Who knows what the outcomes will be. So there'll be a bit of rebuilding but we have to be realistic and also be pretty hellbent on competing to get better and challenge teams.
"If we're young, hopefully, we're exciting and we will have a bit of experience around them," he said. "The big thing for me is the boys will compete and they won't give in, and show some pride in the jersey."
No doubt the Magpies will have their fingers crossed to avoid grappling with the injury demons.
Ozich said ideally they would have liked to retain all the emerging talent in the Bay but it wasn't to be due to tertiary education or, as in the case of HBHS player Kini Naholo (Taranaki), family commitments.
"When you get the full picture and context around some of the boys ... sometimes it's more complex than just not wanting to be here.
"We'd like to keep them all but it's just not possible so our hope is we'll build something here with the local boys who in the future will want to stay here."
The Magpies open their account against Southland at 4.35pm in Invercargill on Sunday, August 19, and then lock horns with Otago on Friday, August 24, before hosting a game on the revamped McLean Park, Napier, against Counties Manukau on Sunday, September 2.
The goal was to make the semifinals, Ozich said, from where anything could happen.
■ 2018 MAGPIES SQUAD (caps): Michael Allardice (Pirates lock, 41), Joe Apikotoa (Taradale prop, 0), Mark Braidwood (NTOB prop, 16), Hannon Brighouse (NOBM loose forward, 0), Michael Buckley (NOBM winger, 0), Geoff Cridge(Hastings lock, 18), Jacob Devery (Hastings hooker, 7), Ash Dixon (NTOB hooker, 82), Pasqualle Dunn (CHB midfield back, 6), Mason Emerson (Hastings winger, 22), Gareth Evans (Havelock North loose forward, 10), Folau Fakatava (Hastings halfback, 0), Tiaan Falcon (Clive first five-eighth, 19), Tim Farrell (NTOB prop, 5), Devan Flanders (Havelock Nth, loose forward, 0), Solomone Funaki* (temporary injury cover, MAC loose forward, 0), Stacey Ili (NOBM utility back, 0), Josh Kaifa (Clive, loose forward, 0), Kianu Kereru-Symes (Tamatea hooker, 0), Jason Long (Hastings prop, 30), Jonah Lowe (Clive outside back, 24), Ben May (Central prop, 9), Lincoln McClutchie (Tamatea first five-eight, 0), Marino Mikaele-Tu'u (Hastings No 8, 11), Tom Parsons (CHB lock, 15), Ben Power (Havelock hooker, 0), Pouri Rakete-Stones (Pirates prop, 10), Brodie Retallick (CHB lock, 9), Fa'elimiga Selesele (MAC No 8, 18), JJ Taulagi (NTOB outside back, 0), Josiah Tavita-Metcalfe (Hastings prop, 0), Danny Toala (Hastings outside back, 0), Sasa Tofilau (Clive midfield back, 0), Will Tremain (NOBM loose forward, 0), Shae Tucker (NOBM midfield back, 0), Sam Ulufonua (Havelock Nth lock/blindside, 0), Brad Weber (NOBM halfback, 17).