South African referee Craig Joubert will blow his whistle to start the 2014 Super Rugby season in Bloemfontein when the Cheetahs host the Lions on Saturday.
The first round of Super Rugby is an all South African affair and the Australian and New Zealand teams join the action.
As the South African teams start a week early it's highly likely that one of them will lead the standings for most of the season before the June break for internationals.
The Stormers are the least likely to do this however as they have a bye this week.
The Lions beat the Southern Kings last year in a promotion/ relegation series of matches to earn the right to play in Super Rugby this year. That was the closest they have played at Super Rugby level since the middle of July 2012.
The Cheetahs on the other hand were still playing Super Rugby in July last year when they knocked out of the race to the title in the play offs by the Brumbies in Canberra. While the Cheetahs didn't make the final they did reach the play offs for the first time and have retained the core of their squad. 2013 was the Cheetahs best ever year in Super Rugby.
The Cheetahs have played the Lions 9 times and won five of those Super Rugby matches. That gives them a record of winning 56% of their matches against the Lions.
The average score when the Cheetahs play the Lions is Cheetahs 31 Lions 20.
The last time the Cheetahs played the Lions was in April 2012 in Welkom and the Cheetahs won 26-5. That day the Cheetahs had home advantage and this weekend the Cheetahs have home advantage again.
The Cheetahs have hosted the Lions in five of their 9 overall matches and they have won three times and lost twice. That gives the Cheetahs a record of winning 60 % of their home matches against the Lions.
The average score when the Cheetahs host the Lions is Cheetahs 31 Lions 17.
In terms of selection the Lions have named thier team for this weekend and have included six players who will make their Super Rugby debuts. They will also have a new captain in Warren Whiteley.
The Cheetahs on the other hand have named a full-strength side with Springbok flyhalf Johan Goosen and fullback Willie le Roux in the starting line up.
Bulls recruit Francois Venter starts at centre and Springbok prop Trevor Nyakane has been named on the replacements bench with Sarel Pretorius. In summary the Cheetahs have plenty of talent in their starting line up and their bench.
Given the Lions lack of recent Super Rugby experience and their past record against the Cheetahs away from home a victory this weekend is unlikely for the Lions.
The Bookies have given the Lions a 13 point start for this Match - with an offer of a FREE $150 BET. The Cheetahs should win this match comfortably. Cheetahs should win by 10+.
This Match will be shown on TV in NZ, Aus, SA and in the UK on Sky Sports HD.
Average score: Cheetahs 31 Lions 20
Last five results
Sat, 07 Apr 2012 Cheetahs v Lions 26-5 Welkom
Sat, 25 Feb 2012 Cheetahs v Lions 25-27 Johannesburg
Fri, 06 May 2011 Cheetahs v Lions 53-19 Johannesburg
Sat, 12 Mar 2011 Cheetahs v Lions 20-25 Bloemfontein
Sat, 15 May 2010 Cheetahs v Lions 59-10 Welkom
Cheetahs overall record against the Lions
Played 9 ,Wins 5 ,Losses 4 ,Draws 0
Match No1: Cheetahs vs Lions
Date : 15 February 2014
Venue : Free State Stadium, Bloemfontein
Kick Off local: 17.05
Referee: Craig Joubert (South Africa)
Assistant Ref 1:TBC (South Africa),
Assistant Ref 2: Lourens van der Merwe (South Africa)
TMO:Johan Greeff (South Africa) with Oupa Wagner (South Africa) in training
Willie le Roux, Cornal Hendricks, Johann Sadie, Francois Venter, Raymond Rhule, Johan Goosen, Shaun Venter, Philip van der Walt, Lappies Labuschagne, Boom Prinsloo, Francois Uys, Lood de Jager, Coenie Oosthuizen, Adriaan Strauss (captain), Caylib Oosthuizen.
Replacements: Ryno Barnes, Trevor Nyakane, Maks van Dyk, Ligtoring Landman, Jean Cook, Sarel Pretorius, Elgar Watts, Rayno Benjamin.
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