The Free State Cheetahs convincingly smashed the EP Kings 53-14 in the first of two promotion/relegation games in Bloemfontein on Friday.
The Cheetahs romped to a half-time lead of 24-0 and scored eight-tries-to-two to make a Kings' victory in next weekend's clash in Port Elizabeth almost irrelevant.
The huge points difference means the Kings will have to beat the Cheetahs by at least 40 points and four tries in the second match if they are to advance to the Currie Cup Premier division.
The Kings showed some good intent from the kick-off, but their eagerness was met by good defence from the Bloemfontein-based side.
The hosts looked the better of the sides in the opening minutes, their first couple of attacking phases resulting in an unconverted try for wing Nico Scheepers in the fifth minute.
The Kings tried to recover, but they could not free the ball up in the tackle situation and turned over possession to the hosts.
The visitors also struggled in the scrums, with loosehead prop Jaco Engels conceding numerous penalties for scrumming in on the angle.
With the points difference in the back of their minds the Cheetahs wasted no time turning another attacking opportunity into points.
The Cheetahs put together some good phases of play before the overlap saw prop Ross Geldenhuys go over for the hosts' second unconverted five-pointer.
The Cheetahs piled on the pressure in the scrums and also had the Kings' number at the breakdown area.
Some ill-discipline did not help the Kings' cause, and the Cheetahs scored their third try in the 27th minute after eighthman Philip van der Walt rounded off another good attacking spell.
Scheepers converted the try, his first of the evening, to give his side a 17-0 lead.
Defending for most of the half the Kings enjoyed very little possession and their leaking defence again cost them dearly.
Cheetahs' wing Raymond Rhule ran around the Kings' backline and offloaded to centre Andries Strauss for their bonus-point try, with Scheepers converting.
The visitors played with renewed vigour and scored their first try in the 46th minute, with flanker Devin Oosthuizen rounding off the visitors' best piece of attacking play of the evening, with flyhalf George Whitehead converting.
The Cheetahs, however, bounced back as centre Strauss scored his second try of the evening.
The visitors continued their resurgence as centre Shane Gates crossed the whitewash in the 54th minute, with Whitehead converting.
However, the Kings' fight-back was short-lived as the Cheetahs' hooker and captain Adriaan Strauss intercepted and scored a converted try.
Replacement flyhalf Tewis de Bruyn later extended the home side's lead to 25 points as he succeeded with a penalty conversion, while Rayno Benajmin added another five-pointer.
Referee Jonathan Kaplan then wrapped up the match as he awarded against the Kings for collapsing an attacking maul on their own goalline.
Tries: Scheepers, Geldenhuys, Van der Walt, Andries Strauss 2, Adriaan Strauss, Benjamin, Penalty try
Cons: Scheepers 2, De Bruyn 3
Pen: De Bruyn
For EP Kings:
Tries: Oosthuizen, Gates
Cons: Whitehead 2
Free State Cheetahs: 15 Hennie Daniller, 14 Nico Scheepers, 13 Robert Ebersohn, 12 Andries Strauss, 11 Raymond Rhule, 10 Sias Ebersohn, 9 Sarel Pretorius, 8 Phillip van der Walt, 7 Pieter Labuschagne, 6 Hendro Scholtz, 5 Izak van der Merwe, 4 Francois Uys, 3 Ross Geldenhuys, 2 Adriaan Strauss (captain), 1 Marcel van der Merwe.
Replacements: 16 Hercu Liebenberg, 17 Schalk van der Merwe, 18 Carl Wegner, 19 Davon Raubenheimer, 20 Tewis du Bruyn, 21 Phillip Snyman, 22 Rayno Benjamin.
EP Kings: 15 SP Marais, 14 Paul Perez, 13 Wayne Stevens (captain), 12 Shane Gates, 11 Michael Killian, 10 Wesley Dunlop, 9 Falie Oelschig, 8 Cornell Du Preez, 7 Wimpie van der Walt, 6 Devin Oosthuizen, 5 David Bullbring, 4 Reynier Bernardo, 3 Clint Newland, 2 Hannes Franklin, 1 Jaco Engels.
Replacements: 16 Frank Herne, 17 Andre Schlechter, 18 Wayne van Heerden, 19 Mpho Mbiyozo, 20 Charl du Plessis, 21 Scott Mathie, 22 George Whitehead.
Referee: Jonathan Kaplan