Danny Wilson insists Friday's Guinness PRO14 clash against Connacht at Cardiff Arms Park is a crucial fixture in the race for a spot in next season's European Champions Cup.
The Galway-based province sit one point and one place above Cardiff Blues in Conference A, and as it stands, with Cheetahs currently third in the table, fourth place would qualify automatically for a place on Europe’s top table.
The Blues claimed a dramatic 15-17 win over Connacht at Sportsground earlier in the season, and Wilson expects Kieran Keane’s side to arrive at the Welsh capital desperate for pay-back.
“Every time we play Connacht, and it’s not a cliché, it’s a real tough fixture,” said Wilson.
“They’re a real gritty bunch who are used to playing in all conditions, which obviously comes from their home venue, and it was a big win for us down there in poor conditions.
“We kick started our season off the back of that win and they’ll be wanting to get revenge.
“We lost to them at home last year, and although that was a good win and a bit of a milestone for my time here, having not beating them away before then, it has to be matched with a home win.
“We’ve put pressure on ourselves to go after the home win and Championship-wise it will move us up to fourth, and into the qualification area that we want to be in, and challenging to be in, for Europe next year.
“There’s lots to play for, lots of motivation and it’s a Friday night game at home. Hopefully off the back of a bonus point win against Zebre, and a really pleasing performance, we can go again and do the same.
“Right this minute now, there’s a real scrap for the places there where one or two wins and the whole Conference picture can change very quickly.
“We’re aware of that and therefore have to pick up our wins where apparent, especially at home in a targeted game for us, but against a good opposition and one we know is going to be a tough test.”
Last week’s match against Ospreys saw the long-awaited return of playmaker, Gareth Anscombe, who made his first appearance of the campaign following a lengthy lay-out with a groin injury.
However, the likes of Gethin Jenkins, Steven Shingler and Rhun Williams picked up minor knocks during the Anglo-Welsh Cup clash, ruling them out of Friday’s match.
Wilson is delighted to see Anscombe returning to the fold, and chooses to remain patient with injuries picked up
Wilson said: “I think we saw from the Zebre game, when we get our best players on the park, we can really go up a gear, and the challenge for the younger boys is to match that.
“It’s obviously real good news that Gareth is back and he now needs a bit of rugby to get back up to speed. He’s been out for quite a while. We’ll try to give him that over the right process and course.
“Traditionally, this time of year around November and December is when your injury list probably gets to its heaviest, and over the last three years, it’s been definitely the case and trend here.
“The fixtures come thick and fast and you can rest what you can in the Anglo-Welsh, but certain players and position you have no choice as you have to fulfil the fixture.
“Others needed a bit of rugby, which we took the gamble, and are obviously disappointing with a couple of bumps that have come off the back of it going into a Championship game, but that’s the same for everybody and we have to weather the storm and move on.”