Preview: Bulls v Stormers
The age-old north/south derby clash between these two South African heavyweight sides will continue on Friday when the Bulls play host to the Stormers.
The stage is set for another fiery affair that could well and truly go either way at Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria, as both teams look to kick-off their 2013 campaign with a win.
Buoyed by their 2012 Currie Cup title, the Stormers - with the core of the squad made up of Western Province players who helped win South Africa's domestic championship - will want to add another piece of silverware to the Newlands trophy cabinet.
Indeed, Allister Coetzee's troops will be desperate to throw away their chokers tag after finishing the 2010 season as runners-up to the Bulls before losing two consecutive home semi-finals to the Crusaders and Sharks respectively - meaning the wait for a maiden Super Rugby title goes on.
Quite simply, though, those losses with the finish line in sight will be all the motivation the Stormers will need heading into this campaign.
No strangers to winning Super Rugby tournaments, however, are the Bulls with three titles to their name thus far. By finishing in the top six last year and making the play-offs, the Bulls proved they are still a quality side even without their Bok legends.
The great thing about the Bulls is that they have an inherent hunger and drive that seems to motivate them to achieve great things. This, together with their illustrious history in Super Rugby is why they could very well be the competition's dark horse this season.
"The Bulls will always be in the mix. They are the only South African franchise to have won this competition three times, and they are a very proud team and union," said Coetzee.
"They have a quality pack and we have seen in the pre-season that Morne Steyn is back to his best, both in kicking out of hand and at posts."
The Bulls have also been further strengthened by the appointment of former Springbok and Bulls stalwart Victor Matfield to the Pretoria outfit's management team.
"I definitely think they will be a better side this year, I'd say much better," added Coetzee.
"They have an extra arrow in their quiver this year in the form of Victor Matfield.
"We all know what he has achieved and what expertise he can bring as an attack and line-out coach."
The Stormers came out on top in both their matches against the Bulls in last year's competition, including a rare victory at Loftus. Will lightning strike twice?
Super head to head: There are a number of positional battles that will have Bok coach Heyneke Meyer casting a keen eye on the action. Morne Steyn and Elton Janjties' battle at fly-half will see either the former prove his doubters wrong or the latter improve his rank in the national pecking order. But the face-off everyone must be looking forward to the most has to be the battle royale between number eights Pierre Spies and Duane Vermeulen. This clash is one fraught with uncertainties. Spies can skittle men over with ease and gallop like a thoroughbred, whilst Vermeulen more often than not delivers an all-round, classy game. Often these match-ups come down to who stands out more, rather than who is doing the dirty business.
Prediction: Tough one! Out of all the games taking place this weekend, this has to be the hardest to call. We expect both teams to go at it hammer and tongs, but we have an inkling the visitors will edge an extremely tight encounter by the skin of their teeth. Stormers by less than five!
Bulls: 15 Zane Kirchner, 14 Lionel Mapoe, 13 JJ Engelbrecht, 12 Wynand Olivier, 11 Bjorn Basson, 10 Mornè Steyn, 9 Francois Hougaard, 8 Pierre Spies (c), 7 Dewald Potgieter, 6 Deon Stegmann, 5 Juandrè Kruger, 4 Flip van der Merwe, 3 Werner Kruger, 2 Chiliboy Ralepelle, 1 Mornè Mellett.
Replacements: 16 Willie Wepener, 17 Frik Kirsten, 18 Grant Hattingh, 19 Arno Botha, 20 Jano Vermaak, 21 Louis Fouchè, 22 Francois Venter.
Stormers: 15 Jaco Taute, 14 Gio Aplon, 13 Jean de Villiers (c), 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Elton Jantjies, 9 Nic Groom, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Rynhardt Elstadt, 6 Siya Kolisi, 5 Andries Bekker, 4 De Kock Steenkamp, 3 Pat Cilliers, 2 Deon Fourie, 1 Steven Kitshoff.
Replacements: 16 Martin Bezuidenhout, 17 Frans Malherbe, 18 Don Armand, 19 Nizaam Carr, 20 Dewaldt Duvenage, 21 Gerhard van den Heever, 22 Joe Pietersen.
Date: Friday, February 22
Kick-off: 19:10 local (17:10 GMT)
Venue: Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria
Referee: Jaco Peyper (South Africa)