Super Rugby returns this week (South African and Jaguares only) and from next week, there is no shortage of intrigue from New Zealand's perspective.

Can the Blues get over their long-held hump against Kiwi opposition and finally crack the playoffs for the first time under Tana Umaga?

Sonny Bill Williams has enjoyed a big offseason of training and will need to play a big role to achieve that feat.

Will Damian McKenzie flourish or flop at first five-eighth with the Chiefs in the post-Dave Rennie era?


Can the Crusaders go back-to-back, or will the Hurricanes be inspired to send departing coach Chris Boyd out a winner?

Ben Smith has set personal bests in his return from a sabbatical that saw him miss seven tests last year.

In his comeback, the All Blacks vice-captain will be keen to again guide the Highlanders deep in the competition.

And what of those Australian teams, who failed to win any of their 26 games against Kiwi opposition last year.

Will they be better?

We are about to find out.

To celebrate the start of the new campaign, Getty Images photographer Hannah Peters has shot a series of striking exclusive portraits of the main players from the Blues, Hurricanes and Highlanders.