Here we go again.

Just when the excitement and interest levels are peaking in the international cricket season with the Black Caps taking on Australia and England, along comes the latest version of Super Rugby.

I know it has been happening for years but it still does not sit right with me that rugby has such a dominance of the sporting calendar.

February to December is now the rugby season. Really?


It seems the endless pursuit of sponsorship money and broadcasting deals holds sway now over all other considerations.

There was a time in its earlier formats when Super Rugby captivated the rugby public and meant something.

Not now. Over the last two to three years that has faded to the extent that aside from New Zealand local derbies no one could care less about a team from Japan playing an even weaker team from South Africa.

The Sanzaar group that runs the thing has reacted quickly to the decline of their competition by dumping the Western Force from the weak Australian group and Cheetahs and Southern Kings from the diluted South African groups.

We are now back to 15 teams split into three conferences and the competition will be stronger for it. The Sunwolves from Japan make up the fifth Australian team and under Jamie Joseph will be a tougher proposition than previously.

Australian teams need to step up. They have lost 26 consecutive matches to New Zealand opposition and you thought the Wallabies were doing it tough against the All Blacks.

The crowning glory of the competition is undoubtedly the New Zealand conference with local derbies on a magnitude of velocity and talent far superior to most test matches.

Last night things got under way with the Highlanders and Blues in Dunedin with the Chiefs taking on the Crusaders in Christchurch tonight.

That is the game Bay of Plenty fans will be most interested in with Reporoa's finest son Sam Cane again leading the Chiefs on the field with fellow All Black Nathan Harris, joined in the forwards by promising talent from the Steamers pack in Aidan Ross, Liam Polwart, Mitchell Karpik and Tyler Ardron.

This is the strongest representation of Steamers in the Chiefs pack and former Tauranga Boys' student Fin Hoeata and ex-Steamers prop Kane Hames are also in the mix for starting places.

But bizarrely the backline has no Steamers at all with Joe Webber and Regan Ware on All Blacks Sevens duty.

Chase Tiatia and James O'Reilly (Hurricanes), Mike Delany and Richard Judd (Crusaders), Tom Franklin (Highlanders) and Lalakai Foketi (Waratahs) have been picked up by other franchises in a rare show of strength in Bay of Plenty rugby depth. Waikato have only six players across the Super Rugby franchises.

Back to cricket.

Let's not forget the biggest day/night yet in the fledgling existence of the Bay Oval is on Wednesday when the Black Caps take on England in the second of the five match ODI series.

So far this summer the ground has won wide acclaim with games against the West Indies and Pakistan plus the Under-19 Cricket World Cup all ticking the right boxes.

England will be a difficult proposition after whipping Australia 4-1 earlier in the summer.

It will be another proud day for local boys Kane Williamson and Trent Boult, who are now the premier batsman and bowler in this Black Caps outfit. Plenty to be proud of about that.

They deserve nothing less than a full house on Wednesday.