Here then are 10 Super Rugby matches to look forward to this season. All times given are South African times.
Highlanders v Crusaders (Saturday March 4, 8.35am)
This is always a highlight on the fixture schedule, with both teams adopting an enterprising style of rugby with try-scoring the ultimate goal. Last year the Highlanders edged the Crusaders 34-26, with this match in round two sure to be as thrilling with several superstar All Blacks on show.
The two big guns in this conference clash on April Fools Day at Ellis Park, but there won’t be anything to laugh about as they go at each other hammer and tongs. The winner of this clash may just have the advantage in the all-important race to top the group. The Lions will be hot favourites.
Cheetahs v Chiefs (Saturday April 15, 3.05pm)
It’s a far tougher ask for Franco Smith and his men this season with the Cheetahs facing New Zealand opposition as opposed to the Australian teams last year. But what an opportunity for the Currie Cup champions. In this clash in Bloemfontein expect plenty of invention, trickery and tries.
Bulls v Cheetahs (Saturday April 22, 5.15pm)
There’s just something about derbies between these teams nowadays - possibly stemming from the pulsating Currie Cup finals played between them in the mid-2000s. There is no holding back when these teams meet and you can be sure this one will be as fiery as all the other past clashes.
Bulls v Crusaders (Saturday May 6, 5.15pm)
This always highly-anticipated clash comes after the Bulls’ second bye weekend and before clashes with the Highlanders, Lions, Hurricanes and Sharks so the home team will be desperate for a win. Expect a high-scoring affair of the highest quality.
Crusaders v Hurricanes (Saturday May 13, 9.35am)
By this stage of the season the multiple-champion Crusaders will be well into their stride (after their normal sluggish start) and like so many of the matches between the New Zealand team this one is sure to be a cracker. The question is, will the Canes be as consistent as they were last year?
Lions v Bulls (Saturday May 20, 5.15pm)
It’s always a big deal when the two Gauteng teams meet and at this stage of the competition both outfits will probably be looking to establish themselves at the top of their groups. Besides the points on offer, individuals will be jockeying for national team places a recipe for this to be a thriller.
Sharks v Stormers (Saturday May 27, 5.15pm)
Both teams will be in intense battles for top spot in their conferences and every point will be crucial. Also it’s the weekend before the Springbok squad is named for the France Tests so there will be plenty to play for. The Stormers will want to fix the “wrong” of last year when they lost 18-13 at Newlands.
Hurricanes v Chiefs (Friday June 9, 9.35am)
These teams will have first met in round three with this return match taking place in Wellington and, if the weather is good, there’s sure to be plenty for the fans to cheer about. They’re sides who toss the ball around, play it wide and look to score tries. Top spot in New Zealand could well be on the line.
Bulls v Stormers (Saturday July 15, 7.30pm)
The final match of the round-robin stage is a repeat of the first match in South Africa and in this Loftus showdown there’s sure to be a heck of a lot riding on the result, possibly top spot in Africa Conference 1. Boy, these matches are heated, intense affairs what a way to wrap up the league play.