New director of rugby Jake White has largely stuck with the tried and tested players that did duty in the same competition or Currie Cup last year.
The only new face in the mix is Springbok prop Lourens Adriaanse, who is on the bench, after his move from Griquas in the off-season, while rookie Stephan Lewies is also among the replacements.
Kankowski is picked despite only recently returning from Japan where he was playing club rugby.
Bismarck du Plessis will captain the side for the first time in a competitive game, while his predecessor Keegan Daniel was not considered due to injury.
White was expecting much of the same from the Bulls despite their lack of experience in comparison to previous years.
“You know what the Bulls are going to do in terms of their style of play,” White said.
“They have been doing it for years. They are going to kick from the base of the scrum, they are going to kick from base of the lineout.
“They will maul the lineouts. They are going to try and physically dominate you in first 25 minutes to see if they can get some ascendancy.”
Sharks team: SP Marais, Odwa Ndungane, Paul Jordaan, Frans Steyn, Lwazi Mvovo, Patrick Lambie, Cobus Reinach, Ryan Kankowski, Willem Alberts, Marcell Coetzee, Pieter-Steph du Toit, Anton Bresler, Jannie du Plessis, Bismarck du Plessis (captain), Tendai Mtawarira.
Replacements: Kyle Cooper, Dale Chadwick, Lourens Adriaanse, Stephan Lewies, Jean Deysel, Charl McLeod, Heimar Williams, S’bura Sithole.