Preview: Cheetahs v Lions
The Cheetahs and Lions will have the honour of getting the 2014 season underway when they face off in Bloemfontein on Saturday.
These sides might be two of the competitions more unfancied teams, but if previous matches between them are to be used as a yardstick then we are set to have an entertaining encounter.
Both sides employ expansive game-plans and don't be surprised if this is a high scoring game.
But don't forget, this is a South African derby. The collisions will be huge and the intensity levels high as neither side will be prepared to give the other an inch in their quest to get the season off to a winning start.
The Cheetahs have won five out of the nine previous games against the Lions, with the men from Johannesburg winning the other four encounters. The average score is 31-20 to the Cheetahs who have scored scored 27 tries compared to the Lions' 16.
Naka Drotske's men were the surprise package of last year's tournament and registered their best ever finish. Their sixth place on the table secured them a spot in the play-offs where they suffered a narrow defeat to eventual runners-up, the Brumbies in Canberra.
Drotske is keen for a repeat of that effort but admits that it will not be easy.
"We're definitely under pressure to repeat our achievements from last year, but at the same time I want to say that we've also gained a lot of confidence and belief from 2013 in that we know we can reach the play-offs," he said.
"So we're rather under positive pressure - our supporters and sponsors now know we can compete with the top six teams in the competition and we don't want to disappoint them."
Cheetahs captain Adriaan Strauss echoed his coach's sentiments but warned against complacency when facing the Lions.
"We want to bring with us the positivity and energy from last year's competition," said Strauss.
"But the intensity with which we'll play is still in our own hands."
The match is a momentous occasion for the Lions, who return to the competition after they were relegated at the end of the 2012 season to make way for the Southern Kings.
Lions boss Johan Ackermann believes their year in the wilderness will make them an unknown quantity in this year's competition and although they'll start as underdogs against the Cheetahs he feels they have a chance of upsetting their hosts.
"They don't know what to expect from us and at what level we are going to be and in which areas we will challenge them," said Ackermann.
"We still want to enjoy this campaign regardless of the results. Nobody goes onto the field to lose - so when those setbacks happen we still have to enjoy each other.
"We are going to go out and do our best and take it from there."
Super head-to-head: The battle between the fly-halves usually has a significant impact in determing the outcome of a game and this one should be no different. Cheetahs pivot Johan Goosen is a man on a mission after spending the bulk of 2013 on the sidelines with a serious knee injury. He will be keen to stamp his authority on this game and his personal duel with Lions number 10 Marnitz Boshoff should make for good viewing. With Elton Jantjies injured, Boshoff has a golden opportunity to cement his place in the Lions' starting XV. If he can get the better of Goosen in this match, Jantjies will have to wait a little longer to return to the run-on side, if he is fit for the Lions' second match.
Prediction: Although the Lions will be psyched up for their first game back since 2012, they will have little to crow about, after this game, as the Cheetahs should dominate from start to finish. Cheetahs to win by eight points!
Cheetahs: 15 Willie le Roux, 14 Cornal Hendricks, 13 Johann Sadie, 12 Francois Venter, 11 Raymond Rhule, 10 Johan Goosen, 9 Shaun Venter, 8 Philip van der Walt, 7 Lappies Labuschagne, 6 Boom Prinsloo, 5 Francois Uys, 4 Lood de Jager, 3 Coenie Oosthuizen, 2 Adriaan Strauss (c), 1 Caylib Oosthuizen.
Replacements: 16 Ryno Barnes, 17 Trevor Nyakane, 18 Maks van Dyk, 19 Ligtoring Landman, 20 Jean Cook, 21 Sarel Pretorius, 22 Elgar Watts, 23 Rayno Benjamin.
Lions: 15 Chrysander Botha, 14 Deon van Rensburg, 13 Lionel Mapoe, 12 Stefan Watermeyer, 11 Ruan Combrinck, 10 Marnitz Boshoff, 9 Michael Bondesio, 8 Warren Whiteley, 7 Derick Minnie, 6 Jaco Kriel, 5 Franco van der Merwe, 4 Franco Mostert, 3 Julian Redelinghuys, 2 Robbie Coetzee, 1 Schalk van der Merwe.
Replacements: 16 Willie Wepener, 17 Jacques van Rooyen, 18 Ruan Dreyer, 19 Willie Britz, 20 Warwick Tecklenburg, 21 Faf de Klerk, 22 Coenie van Wyk, 23 Alwyn Hollenbach.
Date: Saturday, February 15
Kick off: 17:05 (local), 15:05 (GMT)
Venue: Free State Stadium, Bloemfontein
Referee: Craig Joubert (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Jaco Peyper (South Africa), Lourens van der Merwe (South Africa)
Television match official: Johan Greeff (South Africa)