Johannesburg - The league phase of the Currie Cup will reach a nail-biting climax this weekend, with the final playoff spots likely to be determined only after the final match on Saturday.
With all six teams still in with a shout for a semi-final berth, there will also be a battle to stay off the bottom rung of the ladder in order to avoid the promotion-relegation decider against the EP Kings.
The Sharks and Golden Lions have both secured home-semi finals, leaving the other four teams to battle it out for the last two available spots.
Title holders the Lions have the luxury of resting some of their key players for their Jukskei derby against the Blue Bulls at home on Saturday.
Interim Lions coach Johan Ackermann, however, warned the Bulls this week that complacency could lead to their downfall as the title holders look to establish some momentum ahead of the playoffs.
“If we want to win the competition we will have to be able to beat anybody,” Ackermann said.
“So if we beat the Bulls on Saturday and we have to play Province or Cheetahs (in the semi-finals), and we beat them, we then play the Sharks down in Durban (in the final).
“If we want to lift the cup we will have to beat one of those three sides, so that is what it boils down to.”
The Lions will also keep their fingers crossed that the results in other matches work in their favour, to ensure a home final in a fortnight’s time.
“Obviously it would be great if things could work out that we had a home final,” Ackermann said.
The Bulls, buoyed by the return of a number of Springbok players, will be desperate to secure a semi-final spot with a victory over the defending champions.
Lying bottom of the standings ahead of the last round of fixtures in the league stage, the Pretoria outfit will also need valuable points to avoid a relegation battle.
Earlier on Saturday, the Free State Cheetahs, lying second from bottom in the table, possibly have the biggest challenge in an effort to reach the semi-finals when they square up against third-placed Western Province in Cape Town.
While the Cheetahs have been strengthened by the return of captain Adriaan Strauss and Coenie Oosthuizen, Province boast a side brimming with Springbok players.