It's hunt or be hunted in Super Rugby with nowhere to hide and a dangerous foe hoping to catch you off your game every weekend in the search of some vital log points.
Several teams have growing injury lists already at this early stage, while others are yet to notch up their first win this year and must pick up some points quickly before their quest for silverware is over before it begins.
On Friday we're hit with a double dose of the actions as the Crusaders tackle the Chiefs in Napier and Hurricanes blow into Perth, where they will go toe-to-toe with the Western Force.
On Saturday there is a rugby frenzy with a massive five Super Rugby fixtures. The first two encounters see the Cheetahs begin their road trip in Canberra where the face the Brumbies, while the Highlanders host the Waratahs at their new stadium in Dunedin.
Friday, March 8:
Crusaders v Chiefs
(McLean Park, Napier - kick-off: 19.35; 06.35 GMT)
The Crusaders will be licking their wounds from last week's defeat to the Highlanders, but the most successful side in Super Rugby history have a track record that suggests a single loss is unlikely to derail their campaign.
You could say that the Crusaders have a knack of being able to bounce back from a defeat, but that would be to suggest that they often have a defeat to bounce back from - which to be honest is rare.
The Chiefs are one of the Kiwi sides with a lot of firepower and the potential to make waves and upset the status quo this season, and what better way that with a victory over the mighty Crusaders?
Both sides have already claimed the Blues' scalp this season, and win over the 'Saders to add to that will have Chiefs' fans on cloud nine.
The Crusaders fought hard to snatch a close win over the Blues, while the Chiefs romped home last weekend, although it must be said the Blues looked all at sea against the Chiefs in the wet conditions.
Like the Crusaders - the Chiefs were also shocked by the Highlanders this season, so based on the past two outings there should be little to choose between the sides.
A lot could come down to how the two sides use the ball with two impressive backlines at their disposal, and Chiefs scrumhalf Tawera Kerr-Barlow's decision making could be the difference. While the Waikato side has the loose forwards to do some damage on the ground, if the undoubtedly skilled Kerr-Barlow takes the wrong option too often - as he is prone to do - things could go awry.
Sonny Bill Williams will also be eager to make a statement against his old team, while Adam Whitelock will have the task of watching his opposite number like a hawk.
2011: Crusaders won 25-19, Napier
2011: Crusaders won 34-16, Tauranga
2010: Crusaders won 26-19, Hamilton
2009: Crusaders win 19-13, Christchurch
2008: Chiefs won 18-5, Hamilton
rugby365.com Prediction: The Crusaders scrum will put them on the front foot and it should be n even contest between Matt Todd and Liam Messam on the floor. In the midfield the Chiefs might just have the edge with Williams and Richard Kahui and that could be crucial. Chiefs to snatch a narrow win.
Crusaders: 15 Sean Maitland, 14 Israel Dagg, 13 Robbie Fruean, 12 Adam Whitelock, 11 Zac Guildford, 10 Tyler Bleyendaal, 9 Andy Ellis, 8 Kieran Read (captain), 7 Matt Todd, 6 George Whitelock, 5 Tom Donnelly, 4 Luke Romano, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Corey Flynn, 1 Ben Franks.
Replacements: 16 Quentin MacDonald, 17 Wyatt Crockett, 18 Sam Whitelock, 19 Luke Whitelock, 20 Willi Heinz, 21 Tom Taylor, 22 Tom Marshall.
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 Mike Fitzgerald, 19 Sam Cane, 20 Augustine Pulu, 21 Andrew Horrell, 22 Jackson Willison.
Referee: Garratt Williamson (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Mike Fraser (New Zealand), Nick Briant (New Zealand)
TMO: Richard Kelly (New Zealand)
Western Force v Hurricanes
(nib Stadium, Perth - kick-off: 19.05; 11.05 GMT)
The Western Force have called in some experienced heads for their clash with the Hurricanes, and will need them to get the first win of the season under their belts.
Utility back Cameron Shepherd, loose forward Richard Brown and centre Rory Sidey will ad some stability, while having lock Sam Wykes on the bench could also prove handy when he trots on in the second half.
The Force launched a fightback against the Reds last weekend, and lost out by a relatively narrow margin to the Brumbies in Week One. However, the 'Canes present a different challenge altogether, as the first Kiwi side the Force have played this year.
In the Perth side's advantage is their outstanding loose trio, who will need to be at their best at the breakdown to offer the home side a fighting chance, while we are still yet to see what wing Napolioni Nalaga is capable of, after the flying Fijian arrived with a big reputation from France.
The Hurricanes will be pleased with their start on the road, having given the Stormers a scare in Cape Town and then picked up a late victory over the Lions.
The Wellington side have several newcomers who are stepping up nicely, such as flyhalf Beauden Barrett, while any side with Conrad Smith, Cory Jane and Andre Taylor in it's backline will be dangerous.
The 'Cane disadvantage is that this is their third week on tour, and they have just flown to Australia from South Africa and all the travel might be starting to take effect on the team.
2011: Hurricanes won 34-28, Palmerston North
2010: Hurricanes won 47-22, Wellington
2009: Hurricanes won 28-27, Perth
2008: Hurricanes won 21-10, Wellington
2007: Force won 18-17, Perth
rugby365.com Prediction: The 'Canes will back themselves to attack and should be potent early on, however as the game wears on the Force will creep back into the match and make it count in the latter stages when the travelling 'Canes begin to tire. Force by just a couple.
Western Force: 15 Cameron Shepherd, 14 Nick Cummins, 13 Patrick Dellit, 12 Rory Sidey, 11 Napolioni Nalaga, 10 James Stannard, 9 Brett Sheehan, 8 Matt Hodgson, 7 David Pocock (captain), 6 Richard Brown, 5 Nathan Sharpe, 4 Toby Lynn, 3 Salesi Ma'afu, 2 Nathan Charles, 1 Kieran Longbottom.
Replacements: 16 Ben Whittaker, 17 Pek Cowan, 18 Sam Wykes, 19 Angus Cottrell, 20 Justin Turner, 21 Ben Seymour, 22 Alfie Mafi.
Hurricanes: 15 Andre Taylor, 14 Cory Jane, 13 Conrad Smith (captain), 12 Tim Bateman, 11 Julian Savea, 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 TJ Perenara, 8 Victor Vito, 7 Jack Lam, 6 Faifili Levave, 5 Jason Eaton, 4 Jeremy Thrush, 3 Jeffery Toomaga-Allen, 2 Dane Coles, 1 Ben May.
Replacements: 16 Motu Matu'u, 17 Michael Bent, 18 James Broadhurst, 19 Brad Shields, 20 Chris Eaton, 21 Daniel Kirkpatrick, 22 Charlie Ngatai.
Referee: Jaco Peyper (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Andrew Lees (Australia), Simon Moore (Australia)
TMO: Matt Goddard (Australia)
Saturday, March 9:
Brumbies v Cheetahs
(Canberra Stadium, Canberr - kick-off 15.35; 04.35 GMT)
Jake White's Brumbies will be fresh off their bye from last weekend, which with the odd tournament rules also gave them four points, and the Canberra outfit will be ready to tackle the Cheetahs.
Last year the Cheetahs achieve their first ever victory in Australia when they shocked the Waratahs in Sydney, and they will want a similar result against the Brumbies.
The Brumbies are in a re-building phases after losing several senior players, but will be confident with their winning start to the season against the Western Force.
Cheetahs flyhalf sensation Johan Goosen has already given glimpses of what he is capable of, and this tour could be his opportunity to make his mark at this level.
Star openside flank Heinrich Brüssow cut a frustrated figure last weekend, but on Saturday he will have more assistance from mobile front row forward Coenie Oosthuizen.
The Brumbies will want to play a conservative territory-based game, while the Cheetahs prefer to attack in open play, which could produce an interesting mixture during the match.
2011: Cheetahs won 47-36, Bloemfontein
2010: Brumbies won 61-15, Canberra
2009: Brumbies won 40-27, Bloemfontein
2008: Brumbies win 29-23, Canberra
2007: Cheetahs won 38-20, Bloemfontein
rugby365.com Prediction: The Brumbies will try to grind the Cheetahs down, but the men from Canberra simply don't have the depth to hold out against a quality side. Goosen is streets ahead of Matt Toomua and that will show on the scoreboard. Cheetahs by five or less.
Brumbies: 15 Jesse Mogg, 14 Pat McCabe, 13 Andrew Smith, 12 Christian Lealiifano, 11 Henry Speight, 10 Matt Toomua, 9 Nic White, 8 Ben Mowen (captain), 7 Ita Vaea, 6 Peter Kimlin, 5 Sam Carter, 4 Ben Hand, 3 Dan Palmer, 2 Stephen Moore, 1 Ben Alexander.
Replacements: 16 Anthony Hegarty, 17 Ruaidhri Murphy, 18 Scott Fardy, 19 Michael Hooper, 20 Ian Prior, 21 Zack Holmes, 22 Joe Tomane.
Cheetahs: 15 Hennie Daniller, 14 Cameron Jacobs, 13 Robert Ebersohn, 12 Philip Snyman, 11 Willie le Roux, 10 Johan Goosen, 9 Tewis de Bruyn, 8 Ashley Johnson, 7 Philip van der Walt, 6 Heinrich Brüssow, 5 Izak van der Westhuizen, 4 George Earle, 3 WP Nel, 2 Adriaan Strauss (captain), 1 Coenie Oosthuizen.
Replacements: 16 Trevor Nyakane, 17 Hercu Liebenberg, 18 Davon Raubenheimer, 19 Justin Downey, 20 Piet van Zyl, 21 Sias Ebersohn, 22 Ryno Benjamin.
Referee: Keith Brown (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Angus Gardner (Australia), Julian Pritchard (Australia)
TMO: George Ayoub (Australia)
Highlanders v Waratahs
(Forsyth Barr Stadium, Dunedin - kick-off: 19.35; 06.35 GMT)
The Highlanders are the early surprise package of the competition, with impressive victories over the Chiefs and Crusaders to start their giant killing campaign.
The men from Dunedin might even be a little unimpressed that people have mentioned those wins as 'shock' results, as the highlanders made a good start last year that included a win against the Bulls -containing Fourie du Preez, Victor Matfield & Co. - in Pretoria.
The Highlanders ability to flood the breakdown with players, but still stay on their feet and avoid giving away a penalty has set them apart so far this season.
The Waratahs walked through the Rebels' defence last week, but will need to be far more crafty against the South Islanders on Saturday.
The return of Berrick Barnes is a major boost for the 'Tahs, as he adds something special to the backline and is a calm character when all around him become flustered.
Nippy scrumhalf Sarel Pretorius has already made a massive impact since arriving in Syndey, and will always be a threat around the fringes, so the Highlanders will need to pay special attention on him.
Hopefully this time the stadium clock in Dunedin works.
2011: Waratahs won 33-7, Sydney
2010: Highlanders won 26-10, Invercargill
2009: Waratahs won 34-16, Sydney
2008: Waratahs won 15-12, Dunedin
2007: Highlanders won 26-25, Sydney
rugby365.com Prediction: The Waratahs are a classy side and won't go down without a fight, but that said they might struggle to match a confident and in-form Highlanders pack with Adam Thomson running amok. Highlanders by about 10.
Waratahs: 15 Bernard Foley, 14 Tom Kingston, 13 Rob Horne, 12 Berrick Barnes, 11 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 10 Daniel Halangahu (captain), 9 Sarel Pretorius, 8 Wycliff Palu, 7 Pat McCutcheon, 6 Dave Dennis, 5 Kane Douglas, 4 Dean Mumm, 3 Sekope Kepu, 2 Tatafu Polota-Nau, 1 Benn Robinson.
Replacements: 16 John Ulugia, 17 Paddy Ryan, 18 Lopeti Timani, 19 Jono Jenkins, 20 Brendan McKibbin, 21 Tom Carter, 22 Brackin Karauria-Henry.
Referee: Bryce Lawrence (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Vinny Munro (New Zealand), Garratt Williamson (New Zealand)
TMO: Kane McBride (New Zealand)
By Timmy Hancox
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