Sunwolves v Hurricanes
The defending champions travel to Japan in what should be a free-flowing clash. The vim and vigor with which the Sunwolves played last year will give their fans (and neutrals) cause for optimism.
The newcomers' exuberance could not mask a leaky defence which conceded an average of 42 points per game. More concerningly for the Sunwolves is the fact they didn't face any New Zealand opposition last year.
The Canes should relish the openness of this game and with the likes of Julian Savea, Cory Jane and Matt Proctor, you've got to worry for the Sunwolves. The bench is also ominously talented so I can see the Canes running in a fair few tries late on.
Given the willingness of the Sunwolves to play open, attractive rugby, the bet has to be overs.
Over 64.5 points @ 10/11
Crusaders v Brumbies
One has to fear for the Brumbies here. The Crusaders have a new man at the helm and have made some very interesting signings in the off-season. The backline oozes class. Israel Dagg, Ryan Crotty and new signing Seta Tamanivalu will be a real handful for this youthful Brumbies side.
There is a stark contrast between optimism in Christchurch and the concern for the Brumbies. They've lost some key players and now simply don't have the class that they used to. Their recent record in New Zealand is dreadful and I'm expecting a drubbing.
Back Crusaders-17 @ 10/11
Cheetahs v Lions
Can the Lions replicate the heroics of last season? I very much doubt it, but they should open up with a victory here.
Judging from pre-season (which admittedly is not always a good guide), the Lions are going to play the same brand of rugby that brought them success last year. Teams struggled to cope with the combination of their powerful running and a delicate off-loading game. The Cheetahs, who seem to struggle defensively every year, should have their work cut out. This said, with their own free-flowing style, I expect the Cheetahs to score a few themselves.
These South African derbies tend to be high scoring affairs. The last four between these two were 39-22, 40-17, 34-29 and 60-26. The bet is overs.
Back Over 60.5 points @ 10/11