After a barrage of tight matches last weekend we cruise on into Round Two of Super Rugby with already frayed nerves and a sense of excitement for what lies ahead.
This competition never fails to impress and the number of close finishes we have already seen is a testament to how tough it is to win this tournament with so many evenly matched teams.
To start things off on Friday this week the Chiefs host New Zealand rivals the Blues in Hamilton for an early Kiwi derby.
The Melbourne Rebels open their account this season against the Waratahs, having survived their rookie year and are back for another dose of the action.
In their last match of the day we look to Johannesburg, where the Currie Cup champions, the Lions, tackle the Hurricanes.
Friday, March 2:
Chiefs v Blues
(Waikato Stadium, Hamilton - kick-off: 19.35; 06.35 GMT)
The Chiefs stumble into this weekend's match off the back of their shock defeat to the Highlanders in Round One.
The Waikato are expected to have a strong season with all their impressive recruitment, but the side struggled to gel in the opening match.
However, this week offers the chance to bounce back and make the going tough for the Blues in Hamilton, where the two sides with star-studded backlines with lock horns.
The Chiefs have a minor injury crisis already, and with two props out injured youngster Ben Tameifuna will be tested by a strong Blues pack.
The Chiefs will need a much improved performance at the breakdown to secure some possession for their outstanding backline that was starved of the ball for the larger part of the match against the Highlanders.
The Blues are also in search of a first win for the season following their narrow loss the Crusaders, where a Piri Weepu drop-goal could have won the match in the dying seconds - but the kick went wide and the fat lady sang tot he 'Saders delight.
The men from Auckland have their own injury problems up front and will also blood a young tighthead in the match, as Tevita Mailau gets his opportunity in the No.3 jersey.
Despite last weekend's defeat the Blues still have a very strong side on paper and should be more than a handful this season.
2011: Chiefs won 16-11, Auckland
2011: Blues won 16-13, Hamilton
2010: Blues won 30-20, Auckland
2009: Chiefs win 63-34, Hamilton
2008: Blues won 32-14, Auckland
rugby365.com Prediction: The firepower in both backlines means it is likely that which ever team dominates up front and gives their back the ball to run with will come out on top. Blues to romp home by about 14 points.
Chiefs: 15 Robbie Robinson, 14 Asaeli Tikoirotuma, 13 Richard Kahui, 12 Sonny Bill Williams, 11 Tim Nanai-Williams, 10 Aaron Cruden, 9 Tawera Kerr-Barlow, 8 Kane Thompson, 7 Tanerau Latimer, 6 Liam Messam, 5 Brodie Retallick, 4 Craig Clarke, 3 Ben Tameifuna, 2 Mahonri Schwalger, 1 Arizona Taumalolo.
Replacements: 16 Hika Elliot, 17 Shane Cleaver, 18 Fritz Lee, 19 Sam Cane, 20 Augustine Pulu, 21 Andrew Horrell, 22 Declan O'Donnell.
Blues: 15 Isaia Toeava, 14 David Raikuna, 13 Rene Ranger, 12 Benson Stanley, 11 Rudi Wulf, 10 Michael Hobbs, 9 Alby Mathewson, 8 Jerome Kaino, 7 Daniel Braid, 6 Chris Lowrey, 5 Ali Williams, 4 Anthony Boric, 3 Tevita Mailau, 2 Keven Mealamu (captain), 1 Tom McCartney
Replacements: 16 Pauliasi Manu, 17 Angus Ta'avao, 18 Bradley Mika, 19 Luke Braid, 20 Piri Weepu, 21 Gareth Anscombe, 22 Sherwin Stowers.
Referee: Keith Brown (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Jonathon White (New Zealand), Richard Kelly (New Zealand)
TMO: Nick Briant (New Zealand)
Rebels v Waratahs
(AAMI Stadium, Melbourne - kick-off: 19.40; 08.40 GMT)
The Rebels has a bye last weekend and must hit the ground running in week two of the competition to prove they have improved from their debut season.
The Waratahs welcomed the Rebels to Super Rugby with a 43-0 thrashing last year and the Rebels must plug their defensive holes to avoid a similar result this time round.
The Rebels start their campaign without one of their star signings, Kurtley Beale, but will have James O'Connor on show to breath some life into their attacking play.
While there were moments of brilliance in the Melbourne side's attack last season, the defence left something to be desired and an improvement in that department would do them good this year.
The Waratahs came within second of beating the defending champions last weekend and won't want to let another victory slip through their fingers on Friday.
Despite their improvements and recruitment in the off-season, the rebels are still likely to be viewed as a walking bonus point, although the 'Tahs would be wise no to be too relaxed against a side with O'Connor in it's line-up.
The 'Tahs have brought in impressive versatile back Bernard Foley to start at fullback, and while Berrick Barnes' absence is a disappointment, Foley looks a dangerous customer with ball in hand.
2011: Waratahs won 28-9, Sydney
2011: Waratahs won 43-0, Canberra
rugby365.com Prediction: The Rebels will start with some fire in their belly up front, but other than a few moments of magic from O'Connor along the way this should be one way traffic for the Waratahs. 'Tahs to win by about 18.
Rebels: 15 Mark Gerrard, 14 Lachlan Mitchell, 13 Mitch Inman, 12 James O'Connor, 11 Cooper Vuna, 10 Danny Cipriani, 9 Nick Phipps, 8 Gareth Delve, 7 Tom Chamberlain, 6 Luke Jones, 5 Hugh Pyle, 4 Adam Byrnes, 3 Laurie Weeks, 2 Adam Freier, 1 Nic Henderson.
Replacements: 16 Luke Holmes, 17 Rodney Blake, 18 Alister Campbell, 19 Jarrod Saffy, 20 Richard Kingi, 21 Lloyd Johansson, 22 Julian Huxley.
Waratahs: 15 Bernard Foley, 14 Tom Kingston, 13 Rob Horne, 12 Tom Carter, 11 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 10 Daniel Halangahu (captain), 9 Sarel Pretorius, 8 Wycliff Palu, 7 Chris Alcock, 6 Dave Dennis, 5 Kane Douglas, 4 Dean Mumm, 3 Sekope Kepu, 2 Tatafu Polota-Nau, 1 Benn Robinson.
Replacements: 16 Damien Fitzpatrick, 17 Paddy Ryan, 18 Lopeti Timani, 19 Jono Jenkins, 20 Brendan McKibbin, 21 Brackin Karauria-Henry, 22 Nathan Trist.
Referee: Bryce Lawrence (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Andrew Lees (Australia), Angus Gardner (Australia)
TMO: Matt Goddard (Australia)
Lions v Hurricanes
(Coca-Cola Park, Johannesburg - kick-off 19.10; 17.10 GMT)
The Lions are already in unfamiliar territory by being undefeated in the second week of Super Rugby, as the Johannesburg side's resurgence under coach john Mitchell continues.
Thanks in large part to the boot of Elton Jantjies the Lions clinched a narrow win over the Cheetahs, and will want to make it two from two against the Hurricanes.
The 'Canes have been dubbed as the weakest of the New Zealand sides in the pre-tournament predictions, but they gave the Stormers one hell of a scare last weekend.
Both sides will need to cut down their error counts now that the cobwebs from the off-season have been brushed away in Round One.
The Lions are without experienced forward Wikus van Heerden, who was injured in the opening match, which opens the door for promising youngster Stephan Greef to make name for himself in the second row.
The Hurricanes are looking to build on the good parts of last weekend's outing against the Stormers with an unchanged side.
Arguably the two best flyhalves in the first round of action were Jantjies and 'Canes pivot Beauden Barrett, which should set-up a mouth-watering clash between the two talented playmakers.
2011: Hurricanes won 38-27, Wellington
2010: Hurricanes won 33-18, Wellington
2009: Hurricanes won 38-32, Johannesburg
2008: Hurricanes won 38-12, Wellington
2007: Lions won 30-7, Johannesburg
rugby365.com Prediction: The Lions are planning on making Coca-Cola Park a fortress this season and the Hurricanes will find them a tougher opposition in previous years. Lions to edge home in a high scoring match.
Lions: 15 Jaco Taute, 14 Deon van Rensburg, 13 Doppies la Grange, 12 Alwyn Hollenbach, 11 Michael Killian, 10 Elton Jantjies, 9 Michael Bondesio, 8 Warren Whiteley, 7 Joshua Strauss (captain), 6 Derick Minnie, 5 Franco van der Merwe, 4 Stephan Greeff, 3 Patric Cilliers, 2 Callie Visagie, 1 JC Janse van Rensburg.
Replacements: 16 Martin Bezuidenhout, 17 CJ van der Linde, 18 Marius Coetzer/Hendrik Roodt, 19 Cobus Grobbelaar, 20 Tian Meyer, 21 Butch James, 22 James Kamana/Lionel Mapoe.
Hurricanes: 15 Andre Taylor, 14 Cory Jane, 13 Conrad Smith (captain), 12 Tim Bateman, 11 Alapati Leiua, 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 Chris Eaton, 8 Victor Vito, 7 Jack Lam, 6 Faifili Levave, 5 Jason Eaton, 4 Jeremy Thrush, 3 Ben May, 2 Dane Coles, 1 Tristan Moran.
Replacements: 16 Motu Matu'u, 17 Jeffery Toomaga-Allen, 18 James Broadhurst, 19 Brad Shields, 20 TJ Perenara, 21 Daniel Kirkpatrick, 22 Charlie Ngatai.
Referee: Steve Walsh (Australia)
Assistant referees: Lourens van der Merwe (South Africa), Ben Crouse (South Africa)
TMO: Shaun Veldsman (South Africa)
By Timmy Hancox
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