The impending birth of the Super 12 was revealed at Ellis Park in late June on the eve of the 1995 World Cup final in Johannesburg.

News Corp had agreed to stump up with US$555 million ($766 million) to buy the television rights for provincial and international rugby series between New Zealand, Australia and South Africa.

There were far more questions than answers that day and certainly little evidence of the ensuing fight for the players' signatures that the announcement would provoke with the rival World Rugby Corporation.

Trying to put some substance on the skeleton Sanzar deal was a tortuous assignment and there was no indication that eight months later some of us would traipse to Palmerston North to watch the Hurricanes host the Blues at the start of the inaugural Super 12 series.

Ten years later, another deal has been done to expand the series into the Super 14, with as much debate about the merit of that concept as there was about the initial competition.

With such a mass of rugby in this professional era, memories get muddied and games merge into others.

The final year of Super 12 will be overshadowed by the mid-year arrival of the Lions. Every match and the form of every player will be dissected.

However, as we enter the death throes of the Super 12, it also offers a chance to trawl through the years and remember some of the moments, the players and the development of the first professional rugby series.

Once the war with WRC was over, the Super 12 was launched in December 1995 with low-key presentations by commissioner Peter Thorburn about the five regional franchises.

Australia used New South Wales and Queensland and the Brumbies, a side made up of leftovers from the other states. South Africa initially decided to field the top four provinces from the Currie Cup.

The honour of the first title went to the Blues under the tutelage of Graham Henry and Mac McCallion and they repeated that feat the following year. It is also easy to remember how they were denied a third straight title when James Kerr scored for the Crusaders after the ball bounced wickedly in the Blues' in-goal area.

The Brumbies have been the only side able to break the New Zealand stranglehold on the trophy and halfback George Gregan was the first player to play more than 100 games.

The Brumbies also took centrestage last year when they axed coach David Nucifora before they claimed their second title.

Coaching controversies have not been confined to Canberra with the Blues, in 1999, rebelling against the inexperienced regime of Jed Rowlands, who then had his Auckland NPC contract terminated before he started, while there was a similar ruckus in 2003 with the Highlanders.

There were all the squabbles about the boundaries for the Chiefs while coaches such as Peter Sloane, Colin Cooper, Gordon Hunter, Frank Oliver and John Boe were involved in more than one New Zealand franchise.

Nucifora is the first overseas recruit, and Laurie Mains coached the Highlanders after he had been in charge of the Cats.

We all have thrilling recollections of Jonah Lomu, Joeli Vidiri, Rupeni Caucaunibuca, Joe Roff and Christian Cullen scoring dazzling tries and we wait for the possibility that Andrew Mehrtens will overtake Matt Burke and become the first player to register 1000 Super 12 points.

Anton Oliver's feat in becoming just the second player to reach 100 games - tonight in Dunedin - is a colossal achievement for a tightforward. That achievement is in our face but what about some of the other moments which have slid from our consciousness?

* Bomb blasts and cancelled tours are usually connected to cricket but in February 1996, the Blues and Highlanders were forced to cancel their planned exhibition games in Colombo after explosions in the city.

* Midfielder Walter Little became the first New Zealander to be banned for drugtaking when he used an illegal painkiller for toothache.

* Lomu announced in 1997 he would have time out from rugby because of his kidney complaint.

* That same year, Hurricanes wing Roger Randle was charged with rape in Durban and it was a month before the charge was withdrawn by the complainant.

* Sharks flanker Wickus van Heerden was banned for 18 months for biting, a sentence reduced to a year on appeal. Stormers prop Toks van der Linde was sent home for using racist slurs against a woman in Christchurch.

* Talented Chiefs and All Black flanker Aaron Hopa died in a scuba-diving accident on the Coromandel.

* The lights were turned on at Eden Park for the first time in 1999 for the game between the Blues and Crusaders.

* In the same season, the TAB suspended betting on the Highlanders match with the Stormers after the South African side made 12 team changes from the side which had won their previous game.

* For several seasons, Bomber the dog presented kickers at Ballymore with a slobber-filled tee.

* Mehrtens enraged the crowd in Pretoria with his two-digit gesture after dropping a match-winning goal; NSW coach Matt Williams incurred some wrath for showing the ref laptop footage of opposition flanker Josh Kronfeld just before a game.

* Yellow and red cards were introduced and the use of a video referee.

* The Hamilton City Council paid $3.5 million to the Waikato Stadium contractor so the Chiefs-Stormers game could proceed.

* Gregan was tackled by a teenage boy at Rotorua during a match.

* Sanzar and the European Cup Rugby Ltd say they are in favour of an annual match between the hemisphere champions but the fixture has never eventuated.

* Troy Flavell was suspended for 12 weeks after stamping on Greg Smith's face.

* Taine Randell labelled a South African judicial decision a disgrace after comparing suspensions of teammate Aisea Tuilevu and AJ Venter. Randell was later fined $3000.

Finals Countdown

1996 (Auckland)

Blues 45 (A. Blowers, J. Lomu, C. Spencer, E. Clarke, C. Riechelmann, J. Ngauamo tries; A. Cashmore 3 pen, 3 con) Sharks 21 (A. Joubert, J. Small tries; H. Honiball 3 pen, 1 con).

1997 (Auckland)

Blues 23 (C. Dowd, M. Jones tries; A. Cashmore 3 pen, 2 con) Brumbies 7 (J. Roff try, con)

1998 (Auckland)

Crusaders 20 (N. Maxwell, J. Kerr tries; A. Mehrtens 2 pen, 2 con) Blues 13 (J. Christian try; A. Cashmore 1 pen, 1 con, 1 drop goal).

1999 (Dunedin)

Crusaders 24 (A. So'oalo, D. Gibson tries; A. Mehrtens 3 pen, 1 con, 1 drop goal) Highlanders 19 (B. Lima, I. Maka tries; T. Brown 2 con, B. Laney drop goal

2000 (Canberra)

Crusaders 20 (R. Cribb try; A. Mehrtens 5 pen) Brumbies 19 (G. Smith try; S. Mortlock 4 pen, 1 con)

2001 (Canberra)

Brumbies 36 (J. Roff 2, D. Giffin tries; L. Walker 5 pen, 3 con) Sharks 6 (B. James 2 pen).

2002 (Christchurch)

Crusaders 31 (C. Ralph 2, M. Vunibaka tries; A. Mehrtens 3 pen, 2 con, 1 drop goal) Brumbies 13 (L. Walker try, 2 pen, 1 con).

2003 (Auckland)

Blues 21 (D. Howlett, D. Braid tries; C. Spencer 3 pen, 1 con) Crusaders 18 (M. Hammett 2, C. Ralph tries; A. Mehrtens 1 con).

2004 (Canberra)

Brumbies 47 (M. Gerrard 3, J. Roff 2, J. Paul, M. Giteau tries; Roff 6 con) Crusaders 38 (A. Mauger, R. McCaw, B. Thorn, C. King, C. Laulala, D. Carter tries; Carter 4 con).