Bloemfontein - Free State Cheetahs coach Naka Drotské expects another tough outing when his side host the Sharks in Bloemfontein on Friday, in their first home game of the Currie Cup season.
"The Sharks game is a must win for us, not only because of log points but because it is our first home game," Drotske said.
"In this competition, it is strength versus strength and there are no easy games."
The Cheetahs come off a close win over the Golden Lions, followed by a near miss against Western Province last week at Newlands and are one of three leaders in the early stages of the competition.
The Sharks were on a high after handing the Lions their second loss of the competition and would be out to disrupt a side which had not lived up to expectations after a solid performance earlier this year in the Super Rugby competition.
"We were really disappointed about losing against Western Province last weekend, especially after we were up 14-0 and then we let the game get away," Drotské said.
"This weekend the pressure is on. It is of vital importance that we win the next two home games if we want to achieve the goals we set for ourselves."
The Cheetahs have to make do without stalwarts Adriaan Strauss, Coenie Oosthuizen and Piet van Zyl, who were all involved with the Springboks in Argentina.
The hosts were also without their vital locks, Francois Uys and Waltie Vermeulen, due to injury.
Vermeulen had played a pivotal role in the Cheetahs lineouts and his absence would be felt against the Sharks.
"We've been working with Lood de Jager for some time now. This year is the first time that he's played in the number four lock position. Before that he only played five," the coach said.
"He has impressed us at practice with the way that he takes control of the lineouts and calls."
Drotské would also look to Cheetahs flanker and captain Boom Prinsloo to lead from the front in a game most likely to be won among the forwards.
"Boom is doing really well as captain. What I like about him is that he is leading by example," Drotské said.
"Whenever it gets a bit tough out there, he will be the first guy in there. He has an unbelievable work rate and is really fit."