The more things change …

Super 12 may have become the glitzier and extended Super 14, but the fixture that started it all will again launch the southern hemisphere’s revamped regional showpiece.

10 years ago, in 1996, the Hurricanes took on the Blues in game one of the competition. On the 10th February, the same teams will again meet in the opening encounter of this year’s campaign.

The blast of Kiwi ref Bryce Lawrence will signal the start of hostilities.

The increase in games from 69 matches to 94 means the travel implications for referees are monstrous. As an example, South African Mark Lawrence will be in Bloemfontein, Brisbane, Perth and back in Bloemfontein in the first four weeks of the tournament.

Aussie Scott Young will officiate in the Sharks home match against the Chiefs in Durban on 11 February while all the other matches in Round One will involve “home� referees.