Preview: Chiefs v Cheetahs
The Cheetahs start their overseas tour with a tough Super Rugby assignment against the Chiefs in Hamilton on Saturday.
It's the first home game of the season for the defending champions since beating the Sharks in the final at the same venue last year.
And the Chiefs will be out to bag maximum points for the second week in a row after opening their 2013 account with a highly entertaining win over the Highlanders in Dunedin, showing they've lost none of the attacking prowess that was on show in 2012.
The bonus-point win also made it clear that Dave Rennie's free-running troops will once again be serious contenders for the title.
What would have pleased Rennie - but not many fantasy league players at the time - was the kicking performance of Gareth Anscombe. The discarded Blues player was elected to kick at goal ahead of Aaron Cruden and didn't disappoint after contributing 21 points, whilst relieving the pressure off Aaron Cruden in that department at the same time.
Now the Chiefs turn their attention to the Cheetahs - a team who, like their Kiwi opposition, like to give the ball plenty of air. Indeed, if both side's reputations are anything to go by, then we should be in for a great attacking spectacle as witnessed in last season's exciting duel in Bloemfontein (won 39-33 by the Chiefs).
Whilst the Cheetahs enter this clash as massive underdogs, they showed in last week's loss to the Sharks that they won't go down without a fight. After trailing 5-26 early in the second half, they oozed bucket-loads of spirit by reducing the deficit to just four points before a late Sharks penalty sealed the win.
It wasn't an ideal start to lose at home before jetting off on a daunting road trip of Australasia, but at least they didn't leave empty-handed.
The Cheetahs will also be bouyed by the fact that they know how to win on New Zealand soil, having recorded their first ever win in the 'Land of the Long White Cloud' last year. With two wins, and two losing bonus points, it was their most successful overseas trip ever and Naka Drotske will be hoping his team can pull off the same feat.
The Cheetahs last visit to Hamilton (in 2010) was also a memorable one for the South African franchise. They didn't win, but didn't lose either - with the match ending in a draw.
Super head to head: Tim Nanai-Williams v Johann Sadie. With the two side's primed to throw the ball around, it's no surprise our attention turns to the backs where both teams' runners have the ability to create something out of nothing. Fielding wing cum centre Nanai-Williams in the Chiefs midfield proved to be a masterstroke from coach Dave Rennie. The versatile former All Blacks Sevens player’s agility and speed make him highly threatening with the ball in hand, and landed up producing a brilliant individual performance against the Highlanders that included two vital tries. Opposite number, Sadie - playing for a third Super Rugby franchise in the same amount of years - looks to have found his rugby home. Once hailed as possessing the X-factor, the former Stormers and Bulls midfielder is no slouch on attack and rarely takes a step back on defence. He showed some intelligent lines of running to occasionally pierce the Sharks defence last weekend, and will be tasked at keeping Nanai-Williams at bay.
Prediction: A Cheetahs win over the defending champions at home seems highly unlikely. But if the visitors can manage a similar result to the one recorded three years ago, it will be a massive achievement. Though we don't see that happening either, with a losing bonus point the best the Cheetahs can realistically hope for. Chiefs by 12!
Chiefs: 15 Gareth Anscombe, 14 Lelia Masaga, 13 Tim Nanai-Williams, 12 Bundee Aki, 11 Asaeli Tikoirotuma, 10 Aaron Cruden, 9 Augustine Pulu, 8 Fritz Lee, 7 Sam Cane, 6 Liam Messam (c), 5 Brodie Retallick, 4 Michael Fitzgerald, 3 Ben Afeaki, 2 Hika Elliot, 1 Pauliasi Manu.
Replacements: 16 Rhys Marshall, 17 Ben Tameifuna, 18 Craig Clarke, 19 Tanerau Latimer, 20 Tawera Kerr-Barlow, 21 Charlie Ngatai, 22 Patrick Osborn
Cheetahs: 15 Hennie Daniller, 14 Willie le Roux, 13 Johann Sadie, 12 Robert Ebersohn, 11 Raymond Rhule, 10 Johan Goosen, 9 Sarel Pretorius, 8 Philip van der Walt, 7 Lappies Labuschagne, 6 Frans Viljoen, 5 Francois Uys, 4 Lood de Jager, 3 Lourens Adriaanse, 2 Adriaan Strauss (c), 1 Trevor Nyakane.
Replacements: 16 Ryno Barnes, 17 Coenie Oosthuizen, 18 Landman Ligtoring, 19 Boom Prinsloo, 20 Piet van Zyl, 21 Riaan Smit, 22 Ryno Benjamin.
Date: Saturday, March 2
Kick-off: 19:35 (06:35 GMT)
Venue: Waikato Stadium, Hamilton
Referee: Mike Fraser (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Garratt Williamson (New Zealand), Glen Jackson (New Zealand)
Television match official: Vinny Munro (New Zealand)