With the World Cup looming later this year in Japan we expect a highly competitive competition with players fighting for spots in their national squads for the World Cup.
The Chiefs host the Highlanders in an all New Zealand derby on Friday to kick things off for us.
Although it is only round 1 we expect the New Zealanders to hit the ground running with an entertaining first match of the season.
The Chiefs will be without All Black Damain McKenzie and has named Orbyn Leger to start at the ten.
McKenzie was injury is not serious but they did not want to take a chance on him in the first match of the season.
Although Leger had played in the midfield for the Blues last season, Cooper said they have confidence that he will take the opportunity at the ten jumper.
Atu Moli will return at loosehead prop after a lengthy layoff last year due to injury.
The Chiefs have won their last three games in a row against the Highlanders.
The Chiefs has not started Super Rugby well the past to seasons loosing their Round 1 matches the last two years, but the Highlanders have just won three of their last eleven matches away from home.
The Highlanders coach, Mauger has selected a strong side for the clash.
Loosehead prop, Ayden Johnstone, will make his Super Rugby debut alongside All Blacks Liam Coltman and Tyrel Lomax.
The locking duo of Josh Dickson and Pari Pari Parkinson, while relatively light on experience, will add plenty of size to the forwards at 2.0m and 2.04m respectively.
Jackson Hemopo, will play on the blindside and the pack will be led by number eight and co-captain, Luke Whitelock.
“Clearly we are excited about the season getting underway, we have been counting down to this moment and we are looking forward to the opportunity of putting all the preseason hard work into an eighty-minute performance on Friday night against the Chiefs”, said Mauger.
Prediction: A lottery to predict in week one but going with Chiefs at home with 9 points
15 Shaun Stevenson, 14 Bailyn Sullivan, 13 Tumua Manu, 12 Anton Lienert-Brown, 11 Etene Nanai-Seturo, 10 Orbyn Leger, 9 Brad Weber, 8 Tyler Ardron, 7 Lachlan Boshier, 6 Mitchell Brown, 5 Michael Allardice, 4 Brodie Retallick (captain), 3 Angus Ta’avao, 2 Nathan Harris, 1 Atu Moli
Substitutes: 16 Samisoni Taukei’aho, 17 Aidan Ross, 18 Nepo Laulala, 19 Taleni Seu, 20 Jesse Parete, 21 Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi, 22 Stephen Donald, 23 Ataata Moeakiola
15 Ben Smith (co-captain), 14 Matt Faddes, 13 Rob Thompson, 12 Thomas Umaga-Jensen, 11 Tevita Li, 10 Josh Ioane, 9 Kayne Hammington, 8 Luke Whitelock (co-captain), 7 Jimmy Lentjes, 6 Jackson Hemopo, 5 Josh Dickson, 4 Pari Pari Parkinson, 3 Tyrel Lomax, 2 Liam Coltman, 1 Ayden Johnstone
Substitutes: 16 Ash Dixon, 17 Daniel Lienert-Brown, 18 Siate Tokolahi, 19 Shannon Frizell, 20 Dillon Hunt, 21 Aaron Smith, 22 Bryn Gatland, 23 Patelesio Tomkinson