Finally the long wait is over and it's time to get our teeth sunk into some Super Rugby action with the return of the world's most exciting competition outside Test matches.
We're now familiar with the conference format that puzzled many last season and can strap ourselves in for a long ride as this is only the beginning.
New names, new faces and some unexpected results all lie ahead as the new season kicks-off on Friday.
To start things off there is a mighty clash in New Zealand between two of the country's powerhouses, as the Blues host the Crusaders at last year's World Cup Final venue, Eden Park.
Australia get their first taste of the action second up when South African Jake While takes charge of his first Brumbies clash as their new coach, and must tackle the Western Force - captained by Zimbabwe-born David Pocock.
In the last match of the day we look to Pretoria where the Sharks travel into the heart of Bull country and battle on the Highveld.
We look at all the Day One action!
Friday, February 24:
Blues v Crusaders
(Eden Park, Auckland - kick-off: 19.35; 06.35 GMT)
On paper the Blues look like the could be one of the sides to watch this season and are serious contenders to go all the way.
The Auckland side have a backline full of game-breakers and Benson Stanley, Rene Ranger and Isaia Toeava are all match-winners on their day, while the area of concern could be at flyhalf where Michael Hobbs has been thrust.
The 24-year-old had career threatening back surgery 18 months ago and has done enough in pre-season to win the No.10 jersey. Coach Pat Lam has left World Cup-winner Piri Weepu on the bench with talk that the playmaker is still a little podgy following some off-season over indulgence.
Up front the Blues pack looks to be well balanced with Keven Mealamu in command and skilled stars such as Jerome Kaino and Daniel Braid to back him up.
The competition's most successful team, the Crusaders, must start their campaign without the dynamic duo of Richie McCaw and Dan Carter.
New Zealand's two most prized rugby assets are unavailable through injury, so Kieran Read takes charge of the crusade.
Former Baby Blacks pivot Tyler Bleyendaal wears the No.10 jersey and livewire Matt Todd is at No.7 in an example of the next generation of stars coming through.
The Crusaders did brilliantly to reach the final last season, despite travelling throughout the competition without a home base, following the Christchurch earthquake.
A mention must be made of Israel Dagg, who starts the match out on the wing, but is the kind of player who could just produce a moment of magic to turn the game on it's head.
2011: Crusaders won 23-16, Timaru
2011: Blues won 24-22, Auckland
2010: Crusaders won 33-20, Christchurch
2009: Crusaders win 15-13, Auckland
2008: Crusaders won 26-22, Christchurch
Prediction: The Crusaders are a team in transition and while they are always tough opposition this could be the Blues' year to shine. Blues to win a cracker by about eight points.
Blues: 15 Isaia Toeava, 14 David Raikuna, 13 Rene Ranger, 12 Benson Stanley, 11 Rudi Wulf, 10 Michael Hobbs, 9 Alby Mathewson, 8 Jerome Kaino, 7 Daniel Braid, 6 Chris Lowrey, 5 Ali Williams, 4 Anthony Boric, 3 Charlie Faumuina, 2 Keven Mealamu (captain), 1 Tom McCartney
Replacements: 16 Pauliasi Manu, 17 Tevita Mailau, 18 Bradley Mika, 19 Luke Braid, 20 Piri Weepu, 21 Hadleigh Parkes, 22 Sherwin Stowers.
Crusaders: 15 Tom Marshall, 14 Sean Maitland, 13 Robbie Fruean, 12 Ryan Crotty, 11 Israel Dagg, 10 Tyler Bleyendaal, 9 Andy Ellis, 8 Kieran Read (captain), 7 Matt Todd, 6 George Whitelock, 5 Samuel Whitelock, 4 Tom Donnelly, 3 Ben Franks, 2 Quentin MacDonald, 1 Wyatt Crockett.
Replacements: 16 Corey Flynn, 17 Owen Franks, 18 Luke Romano, 19 Luke Whitelock, 20 Willie Heinz, 21 Patrick Osborne, 22 Adam Whitelock.
Referee: Chris Pollock (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Glen Jackson (New Zealand), Mike Fraser (New Zealand)
TMO: Vinny Munro (New Zealand)
Brumbies v Western Force
(Canberra Stadium, Canberra - kick-off: 19.40; 08.40 GMT)
The stats couldn't be more even between these two sides, who have both won three times, lost three times and drawn once since the Force joined Super Rugby back in 2006.
The Force have the more impressive recent record as the Brumbies have been toppled from their pedestal as the best Australian side some years ago.
Jake White is building from the ground up in Canberra and ha backed a group of youngsters to be hungry for success and ready to challenge other sides packed with well known rugby names.
The Force must face life without James O'Connor this season and look to James Stannard to be the team's playmaker. While the backline could be limited, they should have plenty of ball to play with thanks to the star loose trio of Ben McCalman, David Pocock and Matt Hodgson.
Watch out for Force wing Napolioni Nalaga, who John Smit rates as the best left win he's ever played with when they were teammates at Clermont.
This match has several areas of unpredictability and only after 80 minutes will we have a better idea of how these two teams are shaping up for the season ahead.
2011: Match drawn 13-13, Perth
2011: Force won 27-19, Canberra
2010: Brumbies won 24-15, Perth
2009: Force won 25-16, Canberra
2008: Brumbies won 29-22, Perth
Prediction: The Brumbies will want to start well at home send out a message that they don't intend to be whipping boys this year. However, the Force will dominate the breakdown and you can't win without the ball. Force by about 10 points.
Brumbies: 15 Robbie Coleman, 14 Henry Speight, 13 Andrew Smith, 12 Christian Lealiifano, 11 Jesse Mogg, 10 Matt Toomua, 9 Nic White, 8 Ben Mowen (captain), 7 Ita Vaea, 6 Peter Kimlin, 5 Sam Carter, 4 Leon Power, 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.
Western Force: 15 Alfie Mafi, 14 Nick Cummins, 13 Winston Stanley, 12 Rory Sidey, 11 Napolioni Nalaga, 10 James Stannard, 9 Brett Sheehan, 8 Ben McCalman, 7 David Pocock (captain), 6 Matt Hodgson, 5 Nathan Sharpe, 4 Toby Lynn, 3 Salesi Ma'afu, 2 Nathan Charles, 1 Pek Cowan.
Replacements: 16 Elvis Taione, 17 Kieran Longbottom, 18 Phoenix Battye, 19 Angus Cottrell, 20 Justin Turner, 21 Ben Seymour, 22 Sam Wara.
Referee: Bryce Lawrence (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Andrew Lees (Australia), James Leckie (Australia)
TMO: Matt Goddard (Australia)
Bulls v Sharks
(Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria - kick-off 19.10; 17.10 GMT)
The first of the South African derbies promises to be an epic clash between two rival sides who have locked horns in several memorable Super Rugby encounters.
The Bulls are in the midst of a transition and must learn to cope without experienced stars Victor Matfield, Bakkies Botha, Danie Rossouw and Fourie du Preez in particular.
The leadership mantle now falls on Pierre Spies, who must rally his troops and fulfil his obvious potential this season.
The new centre pairing of starlets Francois Venter and Johann Sadie have the skills and creative instincts to breath life into the Bulls backline, and together with Springbok ace Francois Hougaard, in his preferred role at scrumhalf, could prove vital to the Pretoria side's campaign.
Up front in the engine room Juandré Kruger and Flip van der Merwe need to establish themselves as the real deal having lived in the shadow of Matfield and Botha for so long.
The Sharks will remember their physical battle at Loftus Versfeld last season, where they fought their way into the play-offs and ended the Bulls' hopes of retaining their title.
The Durban men will be well aware the Loftus is a tough place to go, and can expect another physical wrestling match.
Despite not having Tendai Mtawarira, Willem Alberts of Jean Deysel available, the Sharks will still be confident that the likes of the Du Plessis brothers, Bismarck and Jannie, can add an element of steel to the forwards.
While the Sharks pack is a major force to be reckoned with, it is in the backline that there is the most potential this year.
Coach John Plumtree might have pulled a rabbit out of the hat early on this year, as the selections of Patrick Lambie and Freddie Michalak as the halfback pairing, and the midfield of Tim Whitehead and JP Pietersen looks to be inspired - but only time will tell.
"We've got to go up there with the mindset that this is a home game and we're going to win," Plumtree told the media.
"We enjoy playing them and they enjoy playing us, we've had a great rivalry over the years, and I'm sure on the weekend, this game will have great intensity about it. Even though it's an early season game, both sides will be very fit and very physical and it will probably last for 80 minutes."
2011: Sharks won 26-23, Pretoria
2011: Bulls won 32-23, Durban
2010: Bulls won 27-19, Pretoria
2009: Bulls win 27-26, Durban
2008: Sharks won 29-15, Pretoria
Prediction: The Bulls won't go down without a fight, but this may be one season too early for them to match this Sharks team. The Sharks to grind out a tough victory by just a few points.
Bulls: 15 Zane Kirchner, 14 Akona Ndungane, 13 Johann Sadie, 12 Francois Venter, 11 Bjorn Basson, 10 Morné Steyn, 9 Francois Hougaard, 8 Pierre Spies (captain), 7 Jacques Potgieter, 6 Deon Stegmann, 5 Juandré Kruger, 4 Flip van der Merwe, 3 Werner Kruger, 2 Chiliboy Ralepelle, 1 Dean Greyling.
Replacements: 16 Willie Wepener, 17 Frik Kirsten, 18 Wilhelm Steenkamp, 19 CJ Stander, 20 Jano Vermaak, 21 Louis Fouché, 22 JJ Engelbrecht.
Sharks: 15 Riaan Viljoen, 14 Louis Ludik, 13 JP Pietersen, 12 Tim Whitehead, 11 Lwazi Mvovo, 10 Patrick Lambie, 9 Frederic Michalak, 8 Ryan Kankowski, 7 Marcell Coetzee, 6 Keegan Daniel (captain), 5 Anton Bresler, 4 Steven Sykes, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Bismarck du Plessis, 1 Dale Chadwick.
Replacements: 16 Craig Burden, 17 Wiehahn Herbst, 18 Ross Skeate, 19 Jacques Botes, 20 Charl McLeod, 21 Meyer Bosman, 22 Paul Jordaan.
Referee: Jonathan Kaplan (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Pro Legoete (South Africa), Tiaan Jonker (South Africa)
TMO: Gerrie Coetzee (South Africa)
By Timmy Hancox
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