Ospreys director of coaching Scott Johnson believes Sunday’s clash against Ulster is an early opportunity for his side to showcase their RaboDirect PRO12 title credentials.
Something has to give at the Liberty Stadium when the teams, who both finished as losing semi-finalists last season, put their 100per cent records on the line, and Johnson is under no illusion that Ulster will again be challenging for the top four.
“I think they are one of the teams to beat,” he said. “There’s no doubt about it: they have bought well and they have got some good young talent coming through to support that.
“And when [John] Afoa and the South African contingent come they will be as good as anyone.
“I think for both sides it is a game you would like to get the psychological blow on each other.
“We feel it is an important year for this club with the fact that with the charter that has been signed with the governing body, the changes in the game and the competitive throes across the pond. I think for Welsh rugby we need to solidify our place here.”
Both Johnson and Ulster coach Brian McLaughlin have not been afraid about giving their youngsters a chance to shine in the early part of the season.
That faith has been rewarded with both Ulster winger Craig Gilory, 20, and Ospreys scrum-half Rhys Webb, 22, picking up RaboDirect PRO12 man-of-the-match awards.
And Johnson insists Sunday represents a golden opportunity for fans to witness the birth of future superstars of the game.
He added: “When you look back there’s nothing is better than seeing a kid start his career. There’s so much thrill in seeing a kid develop and then you can say I was there when he first ran out.
“I remember when the first time I saw George Gregan play. Everyone sees the 100 odd caps but I remember seeing him in the early part of his career and we were all discussing how far can this kid go.
“It is just as big a thrill as seeing them in their glory as it is at the start. That’s why I think it is a great opportunity for supporters to get out there and view it at this time, because you are going to see the start of people’s careers and that’s fantastic.”