The 2018 season of Super Rugby gets underway this weekend. The league has made some changes, with just two games on the fixture, neither of them showcasing any of the New Zealand teams.
The games will be played in South Africa in the new and improved version of Super Rugby that has culled three teams to bring the number down from 18 to 15.
One game will be the Stormers v the Jaguares in Cape Town and the Lions hosting the Sharks in Johannesburg being the other. Both those games will be played on Sunday morning.
The fan base will have to wait for the second round the following weekend for this to get interesting. Seven games will be held from Friday to Sunday, commencing with the Hobart Hurricanes against the Blues at the indoor facility in Dunedin.
If you simply must, tune in for the Lions – Sharks match at Ellis Park, where, hopefully, the Lions will fare better on their home ground that they did at their last outing at Ellis, where they lost 25 – 17 in the finals to the Crusaders.
Gone from the ranks of teams in the 2018 Super Rugby competition are the Western Force from Australia, the Cheetahs from South Africa and the Kings, also from South Africa.
The league hopes to rejuvenate interest in the competition.
That said, not every team will meet every other team during the regular season. Each side will play eight home-and away derbies in their conference, combined with eight crossover games against four teams from the other two conferences.
The winner from each conference and the two next best performing teams will host quarterfinals and there will be four sides in the finals as wild cards based on which have the best competition points accumulated.
The Aussie and Kiwi sides will be training, formulating game plans and focusing on hydration and nutrition as they await their turns.
Super Rugby will have the stage to itself until March 8, when the NRL gets underway for 2018.