South Canterbury face a simple equation if they want to make the Meads Cup semifinals for the first time in five years – they must beat Mid Canterbury.
The 23-11 loss to Horowhenua-Kapiti in Levin on Saturday means South Canterbury sit fourth-equal with the defending champions.
The clash is the final round robin game of the Heartland Championship.
South Canterbury started the season brightly with three bonus-point wins but since then things have got rather wobbly.
By contrast, Mid Canterbury started slowly and have improved, so it will be a big day at Alpine Energy Stadium.
In their preseason clash South Canterbury were thrashed 61-29 but have improved, it will just be a matter of how much.
It will be a disastrous day for the losing coach.
South Canterbury coach Chester Scott admitted he could hear the knives rattling, while Glen Moore is unlikely to want to head to the Super Rugby Blues franchise finishing outside the top four, having been champions last season.
Scott said things did not go their way in Levin.
“Horowhenua-Kapiti played a bit better than we did and they took their opportunities.”
Scott said the hosts also used the strong breeze well.
“They were big, solid with an effective game plan.
“Our ball retention was poor and our decision making in general.”
Scott admitted at this stage of the season the four or five senior players should be making the right decisions.
“The worst thing as coaches is we can’t play the game for them.
“We have a side capable of competing in the Meads Cup.
“It comes down to us and Mid Canterbury and we have put ourselves in that position.”
Scott would not be drawn on his future if the side missed out on the top four, after three years in charge and five altogether with the side.
“We will have to wait and see with the review at the end of the season, that is the harsh reality of being a coach.”
At Levin, Scott said captain Nick Strachan worked tirelessly and put his body on the line.
“Ben Hewitson also went well as did Kali Latu in his 50th game.”
In the backs, Scott rated wing Erenimo Tau’s performance and substitute halfback Theo Davidson, who came on with 25 minutes to play.
Scott has been consistent in his starting selections but would not be drawn if any changes would be made to the side, that appears to be struggling at the business end of the season.
“We have players going very well one week and maybe not as well the next. It is not that simple.”
Buller’s blitz on the Heartland Championship continued on Saturday with a hard fought 29-24 win over neighbours West Coast.
That leaves the country’s smallest union sitting pretty on top of the championship, unbeaten in seven games and extending their record for consecutive wins to seven.
Buller are also assured of making the Meads Cup semifinals for the first time in their history and cannot be topped on the table with only one game left in the round-robin.
They have 32 points with Poverty Bay next best on 26 after beating Thames Valley 17-9.
Mid Canterbury also pulled off a crucial 28-7 win over North Otago to remain in the race.