Johannesburg - As the Currie Cup moves into the second round this weekend there are only five matches left for teams to cement a place in the playoffs in October.
With little separating the sides in the shortened version of the competition, more intense battles are expected, as well as greater desperation to find consistency.
Log leaders Western Province know full well their time at the top of the table could be fleeting as they prepare to take on the Sharks in Durban on Saturday.
While the Capetonians rule the roost in terms of their position on the log, they are equal on points with both the Golden Lions and the Sharks.
The Sharks, however, have one over Province after beating them in their last two encounters.
The last time the two sides met, the Durbanites beat their coastal counterparts by a mere two points.
Sharks coach John Plumtree said this week their rivals had shown improvement since they last played, which would make for a difficult clash.
"Everyone has got better since then but it’s still tricky to pick the winners and the losers in this competition," Plumtree said.
"Province have their strengths and so do we. It will be a tough contest."
Western Province coach Allister Coetzee echoed Plumtree's sentiments and felt his charges needed break the perceived stranglehold the Sharks had over them.
"It is going to be tough in Durban and looking at the results of the past it seems they have our number," Coetzee said.
"We'll have our work cut out to be victorious there, especially as they have so many quality players in their line-up."
The Blue Bulls should be the most desperate of the six teams as they find themselves in a precarious position at the bottom of the log.
They will travel to Kimberley -- deemed one of the most hostile of venues in the country -- in an effort to find their groove against Griquas.
To make matters worse, the Northern Cape side have been in superb form, dismantling two of the top teams -- the Sharks and Lions -- in successive matches.
Bulls coach Pine Pienaar said he expected Griquas, two points above them in the standings, to throw down the gauntlet as they hoped to secure a place among the playoff contenders.
"You will see a Griquas side coming out hard because they are in the same position as us," Pienaar said.
"A victory would allow them to push for a semi-final spot, while a defeat could place them under pressure.
"They have a pretty straight-forward approach and that involves dominating up-front in the scrums and mauls, and they played fantastic attacking rugby against the Lions."
In the other match of the weekend, the Lions travel to Bloemfontein where they face the Free State Cheetahs.
The Lions will hope to build on the confidence they picked up from last weekend's emphatic victory over the Bulls at Loftus Versfeld.
The Cheetahs, on the other hand, will look to make up for last week's squandered victory over Western Province.
Interim Lions coach Johan Ackermann said his side was wary of a well-balanced Cheetahs outfit.
Both sides would like to cement their places among the top teams, with a battle of attrition on the cards.