They will need to show that they have the ability to follow through when the pressure is on
South Africa's play-off contenders all face teams with nothing to lose in the final three games of the regular season on Saturday.
The Stormers, Sharks and Bulls all have the luxury of playing at home and knowing exactly what is requirted of them by kick-off, but will have to be wary of the underdog factor which could throw a late spanner in the works.
The Rebels, Cheetahs and Lions have all sprung some surprises this season, so the tension should be high as they throw everything at the opposition in what will be their last match of the season.
Stormers v Rebels
(Newlands, Cape Town - Kick-off: 15.00; 13.00 GMT)
The Stormers will be out to make it a remarkable 14 wins this season when they take on a depleted Rebels side at Newlands on Saturday.
Despite their consistency this season the Stormers have been under constant pressure to deliver a more entertaining brand of rugby, with many pointing to the fact that they have not yet managed to score four tries in a match this year.
The Rebels have made some impressive strides this year, and will be motivated to send veterans Stirling Mortlock, Mark Gerrard and Julian Huxley off on a positive note, but they are missing key players and could be caught short at the end of a demanding season.
The home side will look to trap the Rebels in their own half and force them to try and run their way out of trouble, so tactical kicking could play a vital role as territorial ascendency will be key to controlling the game.
The Stormers have endured numerous disruptions to their forward pack this season, and although they have bbeen able to maintain a high standard of discipline and intensity their scrum has been exposed in recent weeks, so they will be keen to get some confidence in their set-piece ahead of the play-offs.
The Rebels are likely to try and play some enterprising rugby, which could provide attacking opportunities for the Stormers who rely on pressurising the opposition into mistakes.
2011: Stormers won 40-3 in Melbourne
Prediction: The Rebels will try and express themselves, which could open the game up a bit, but the Stormers will stick to their structures at Newlands which should get them a victory by about ten points.
Stormers: 15 Joe Pietersen, 14 Gio Aplon, 13 Juan de Jongh, 12 Jean de Villiers (captain), 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Peter Grant, 9 Dewaldt Duvenage, 8 Deon Fourie, 7 Rynhardt Elstadt, 6 Siya Kolisi, 5 Andries Bekker, 4 De Kock Steenkamp, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Tiaan Liebenberg, 1 Steven Kitshoff.
Replacements: 16 Brok Harris, 17 Deon Carstens, 18 Quinn Roux, 19 Jebb Sinclair, 20 Louis Schrueder, 21 Burton Francis, 22 Gerhard van den Heever.
Melbourne Rebels: 15 Julian Huxley, 14 Mark Gerrard, 13 Mitch Inman, 12 Stirling Mortlock (captain), 11 Cooper Vuna/Lachlan Mitchell, 10 James Hilgendorf, 9 Nick Phipps, 8 Gareth Delve, 7 Hugh Perrett, 6 Tim Davidson, 5 Hugh Pyle, 4 Cadeyrn Neville, 3 Jono Owen, 2 Ged Robinson, 1 Rodney Blake.
Replacements: 16 Luke Holmes, 17 Paul Alo-Emile, 18 Alister Campbell, 19 Ryan Hodson, 20 Nic Stirzaker, 21 Cooper Vuna/Lachlan Mitchell, 22 Richard Kingi.
Referee: Lourens van der Merwe (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Mark Lawrence (South Africa), Christie du Preez (South Africa)
TMO: Shaun Veldsman (South Africa)
Sharks v Cheetahs
(Kings Park, Durban - Kick-off: 17.05; 15.05 GMT)
The Sharks are faced with another must-win game to qualify for the play-offs, and this year it is the Cheetahs that they will have to put away to make it into the knock-out phase of the competition.
The Durban side have picked up some impressive momentum in the second half of the season, proving that they have the ability to dominate the opposition, so they will be confident heading into what they will consider their first play-off match.
They face the Cheetahs who have had a tough two weeks since Super Rugby resumed, having gone down to the Bulls and Stormers, but the Free State side will take heart from the fact that victory will make this their most successful season ever so they are unlikely to roll over.
The Cheetahs were considered to be something of a bogey side for the Sharks a few years ago, but if they are to spring a surprise at Kings Park on Saturday then they must match the home side's considerable physicality.
The Sharks' emphatic victory over the Bulls last week was built on solid work in the set-pieces and their ability to win the collisions, and they will aim to keep the Cheetahs on the back foot in much the same way this weekend.
With their first-choice backline in place and a bench which boasts Bok powerhouses Willem Alberts and Bismarck du Plessis the Sharks should have too much quality for the visitors.
However, there is far less at stake for the Cheetahs so they are likely to take the game to the Sharks and play with freedom in a bid to end their season on a high.
Coach Naka Drotske has named a few inexperienced players in his starting line-up as he looks at his options ahead of the Currie Cup season, so they will be desperate to impress against their highly-rated opposition.
2012: Sharks won 34-20 in Bloemfontein
2011: Sharks won 23-18 in Bloemfontein
2011: Sharks won 24-9 in Durban
2010: Cheetahs won 25-20 in Durban
2009: Cheetahs won 31-6 in Bloemfontein
Prediction: The Cheetahs will play with their usual enthusiasm, but the Sharks simplay have too many big guns, and should be too strong at home with the motivation of a place in the play-offs so we are backing the Sharks to win by about ten points.
Sharks: 15 Patrick Lambie, 14 JP Pietersen, 13 Tim Whitehead, 12 Francois Steyn, 11 Lwazi Mvovo, 10 Frederic Michalak, 9 Charl McLeod, 8 Ryan Kankowski, 7 Marcell Coetzee, 6 Keegan Daniel (captain), 5 Anton Bresler, 4 Jandre Marais, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Craig Burden, 1 Tendai Mtawarira.
Replacements: 16 Bismarck du Plessis, 17 Wiehahn Herbst, 18 Pieter-Steph du Toit /Jean Deysel, 19 Willem Alberts, 20 Jacques Botes, 21 Meyer Bosman /Paul Jordaan, 22 Louis Ludik.
Cheetahs: 15 Willie le Roux, 14 Nico Scheepers, 13 Robert Ebersohn, 12 Barry Geel, 11 Philip Snyman, 10 Riaan Smit, 9 Piet van Zyl, 8 Boom Prinsloo, 7 Lappies Labuschagne, 6 Heinrich Brussow, 5 Izak van der Westhuizen, 4 Andries Ferreira, 3 WP Nel, 2 Adriaan Strauss (captain), 1 Trevor Nyakane.
Replacements: 16 Hercu Liebenberg, 17 Marcel van der Merwe, 18 Waltie Vermeulen, 19 Ashley Johnson, 20 Jacques Coetzee, 21 Sias Ebersohn, 22 Andries Strauss.
Referee: Jaco Peyper
Assistant referees: Marius Jonker, Reuben Rossouw
TMO: Gerrie Coetzee
Bulls v Lions
(Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria - Kick-off: 19.10; 17.10 GMT)
The Bulls' quest to qualify for the play-offs faces the ultimate banana skin when they host the 15th-placed Lions at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday.
The team from Pretoria have surprised many who never gave them a chance to be in this position given the exodus of quality players last year, but they will need to show that they have the ability to follow through when the pressure is on.
The Bulls had their hearts broken by the Sharks in a very similar situation last year, and they will be especially wary of the Lions who have found some form towards the end of the season and always seem to rise to the occasion in the South African derbies.
The three-time champions have shown glimpses this year of the devastating style that has seen them blast the opposition off the park in the past, but their challenge has faded somewhat towards the end of the season so they will be desperate to find some fluency and momentum against the Lions.
The Lions have proven to be threatening at times, but they have lacked the consistency to compete with the top sides and their challenge will be to produce an 80-minute performance in the pressure cauldron of Loftus Versfeld.
The Bulls will know exactly what is required when the game kicks off, but that is unlikely to change their approach much and they will storm out of the blocks in a bid to overwhelm the Lions regardless.
2012: Bulls won 32-18 in Johannesburg
2011: Bulls won 30-23 in Pretoria
2011: Bulls won 24-20 in Johannesburg
2010: Bulls won 51-11 in Pretoria
2009: Bulls won 16-9 in Johannesburg
Prediction: The Lions will be competitive, but may struggle to sustain their effort against a determined Bulls side who have more to play for, so we are backing the Bulls to take this one by about six points.
Bulls: 15 Zane Kirchner, 14 Akona Ndungane, 13 JJ Engelbrecht, 12 Wynand Olivier, 11 Bjorn Basson, 10 Morné Steyn, 9 Francois Hougaard, 8 Pierre Spies (captain), 7 Jacques Potgieter, 6 Dewald Potgieter, 5 Juandre Kruger, 4 Wilhelm Steenkamp, 3 Werner Kruger, 2 Chiliboy Ralepelle, 12 Dean Greyling.
Replacements: 16 Willie Wepener, 17 Frik Kirsten, 18 Deon Stegmann, 19 CJ Stander, 20 Jano Vermaak, 21 Louis Fouché, 22 Francois Venter.
Lions: 15 James Kamana, 14 Lionel Mapoe, 13 Waylon Murray, 12 Butch James, 11 Anthony Volmink, 10 Elton Jantjies, 9 Michael Bondesio, 8 Joshua Strauss (captain), 7 Grant Hattingh, 6 Derick Minnie, 5 Ruan Botha, 4 Hendrik Roodt, 3 Jacobie Adriaanse, 2 Callie Visagie, 1 JC Janse van Rensburg.
Replacements: 16 Martin Bezuidenhout, 17 Ruan Dreyer, 18 Etienne Oosthuizen, 19 Jaco Kriel, 20 Ross Cronje, 21 JR Esterhuizen, 22 Ruan Combrinck.
Referee: Craig Joubert (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Sindile Mayende (South Africa), Stefan Breytenbach (South Africa)
TMO: JC Fortuin (South Africa)
By Michael de Vries