The Free State Cheetahs know they have to deliver their best performance of the season if they want to beat the Golden Lions in their Currie Cup semi-final in Johannesburg on Saturday.
The in-form home side have so far swept aside every challenge before them this season and they are currently on a ten-match unbeaten run in the competition.
The Golden Lions scored a runaway 73-31 victory over the Cheetahs in their round-robin meeting last month in Bloemfontein and they should be fresh and rejuvenated after fielding a new-look side for last weekend’s last league fixture against Griquas in Johannesburg.
Their coach Johan Ackermann believes his decision to rest 14 of his first-choice players last weekend will pay off against the Cheetahs.
“I've definitely seen renewed energy amongst our stalwarts this week,” he said.
“They've said that they feel refreshed again. We expect all of them to make a big contribution this weekend.”
Despite going down by more than 40 points to the Lions in their last round-robin match, the Cheetahs will approach the meeting with the Lions knowing that previous form will count for nothing in the knockout phase.
They managed to escape defeat against the Sharks last Saturday thanks to a gritty fightback in Bloemfontein, and this week they will have to show that fighting spirit from the start against the team that have so far have thrived on their high-tempo, fast attacking style of play.
That brand of rugby has won the Lions plenty of fans but it has been proven, in plenty of knockout matches in the past, that running rugby alone doesn't bring success at the business end of a tournament.
The Cheetahs can consider them lucky to be in the semi-finals. Last weekend they seemed dead and buried in that clash against the Sharks but fought back from a 14-point deficit, inside the final 10 minutes, to secure a 34-34 draw thanks to tries by Rayno Benjamin and Gerhard Olivier.
Along with Benjamin, they have other brilliant attackers in Clayton Blommetjies, Sergeal Petersen, Francois Venter and Raymond Rhule who can change the course of the match with a moment of brilliance.
Just like the Lions, they also employ an expansive game-plan but unlike the men from Johannesburg they are yet to find a balance between their fine attacking displays and a solid defensive effort.
Prediction: The home side shouldn't have too many problems taking this one and will do it in style. Golden Lions to win by 20 points!
Lions: 15 Andries Coetzee, 14 Courtnall Skosan, 13 Stokkies Hanekom, 12 Howard Mnisi, 11 Anthony Volmink, 10 Marnitz Boshoff, 9 Ross Cronje, 8 Warren Whiteley, 7 Steph de Witt, 6 Jaco Kriel (c), 5 Franco Mostert, 4 Lourens Erasmus, 3 Julian Redelinghuys, 2 Malcom Marx, 1 Jacques van Rooyen.
Replacements: 16 Robbie Coetzee, 17 Ruan Dreyer, 18 Fabian Booysen,19 Kwagga Smith, 20 Jaco van der Walt, 21 Rohan Janse van Rensburg, 22 Sampie Mastriet.
Cheetahs: 15 Clayton Blommetjies, 14 Sergeal Petersen, 13 Francois Venter, 12 Rayno Benjamin, 11 Raymond Rhule, 10 Niel Marais, 9 Shaun Venter, 8 Niell Jordaan, 7 Oupa Mohoje, 6 Boom Prinsloo, 5 Francois Uys (c), 4 Armandt Koster, 3 Luan de Bruin, 2 Jacques du Toit, 1 BG Uys.
Replacements: 16 Torsten van Jaarsveld, 17 Maks van Dyk, 18 Reniel Hugo, 19 Gerhard Olivier, 20 Ruan van Rensburg, 21 Sias Ebersohn, 22 AJ Coertzen
Date: Saturday, October 17
Venue: Ellis Park, Johannesburg
Kick-off: 13:45 local (11:45 GMT)
Referee: Jaco van Heerden
Assistant Referees: Rasta Rasivhenge, Quinton Immelman
TMO: Marius Jonker