Melbourne Rebels stand-in skipper Tom English rates their Super Rugby clash with the Waratahs on Friday night as the biggest in the club's history with a maiden finals appearance virtually hanging on the result.
The Rebels sit one point behind the Australian conference-leading Waratahs but have a more difficult run home with three rounds remaining.
They have away games against Queensland and the always-tough Highlanders in Dunedin while the Waratahs play at home against the Sunwolves and Brumbies, who are both out of finals contention.
Since they joined the competition in 2011 their best finish has been 10th in 2015.
Given the captaincy in the absence of injured Wallabies lock Adam Coleman, English said a win at AAMI Park was vital.
"Getting a win over the Waratahs will obviously deny them the point and with a tough run with the Highlanders we really need to execute and come away with a win," English said on Thursday.
"We've never really been in a position like this before on the ladder so there will be no love lost out there."
The Waratahs' preparation has been disrupted by the one-game suspension of superstar fullback Israel Folau and subsequent appeal by Rugby Australia.
But English predicted the loss of injured NSW skipper Michael Hooper, who has only missed 53 minutes of play in his 93 games since joining them in 2013, would be even more keenly felt.
"He's definitely their energiser bunny - his workrate is immense," English said of Hooper.
"He's also a really good leader but in saying that they have guys who can step up.
"Without Hooper, Will Miller gets an opportunity and he was exceptional when he was down here playing with us so we're not going to take him lightly."
In their round six clash in Sydney the Waratahs ended the Rebels' winning start to the season in stunning fashion, piling on five tries in 20 minutes after the Rebels raced to a 20-3 lead.
English said his team had learnt plenty from that loss.
"That game was a key learning point for us in the season - we had to understand that we had to be for the full 80 minutes and you can't expect to get a couple of tries early and hold on," English said.
"For us it's about chasing for points rather than locking up shop."