Cape Town - Cheetahs coach Hawies Fourie has warned his charges to "pitch up" for the PRO14 derby against the Southern Kings in Port Elizabeth on Saturday.
If not, the men from Bloemfontein face another devastating blow to their hopes of making the playoff rounds.
Fourie was less than impressed with his side's performance in their 41-13 shock loss to Italian outfit Zebre early in January but knows they need to win both derbies over the next fortnight to keep their chances of making the playoffs alive.
And while they underestimated Zebre and fell short, Fourie won’t be making the same mistake again, especially as historically the games between the two at the Kings' home ground have been close.
"I told the players yesterday that in the previous three games in Port Elizabeth were close. The scores were 29-20, 21-20 and 24-17. That is what we will encounter, it won't be a 60-20 scoreline," he said.
"If we don't pitch up and play well, then we will be in the same boat as against Zebre. We have worked hard and mentally we know where we are. We know the mistakes we made against Zebre and we will definitely put up a better performance."
The performance against Zebre sent shockwaves through the Cheetahs, but given the Italian side's recent results, it wasn't unexpected. But it has dealt the Cheetahs a body blow they need to recover from in the PRO14 race.
"It was definitely not ideal but you can't underestimate any team in the competition and say to yourself you can get five easy points. Zebre showed their worth when they beat Stade Francais a week later. They are a quality team and the one problem we had is that there were individuals that believed we would come back with five points in the bag.
"What it means is that we need to win another game that we are normally given less of a chance to win to get back on par where we need to be. We aimed for 19 points in this six-game phase. We had six games to get 19 points and now we need to do it in five."
While the Kings beat the Stormers 13-3 last weekend in a friendly, the Cheetahs are not reading much into it.
They believe in good weather and on a hard pitch they will back themselves to play their brand of rugby.
"I was a bit worried earlier in the week when they forecasted rain in Port Elizabeth. I thought 'geez, but luckily that has changed now, it looks as if it is going to be a clear day in PE and we're happy to be back on home soil in South Africa and in conditions where we are used to," Fourie added.
"I don't think they will read too much into that game. I watched the game and it was in pouring rain and high winds and against the Stormers B/C team. I know a lot of those players, and there were a few club players in that team as well.
"They did well to win the game in scrappy conditions but it wasn't their starting line-up as well. It was their B side with a few starting players on the bench. Still it will definitely boost their confidence, although I don’t think they will be overconfident.
"My feeling is the game against the Cheetahs is the one the Kings are looking forward to for the entire season. If they beat us they will feel they are the best PRO14 side in South Africa. They've improved quite a lot since the start of the competition. We don’t underestimate them, but if they do underestimate us then it is okay, I will take that."
Saturday's clash at Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium is scheduled for 15:30.
- PRO14 media