Western Province coach John Dobson believes his team has the ability to secure, at least, a home final as they look to defend their Currie Cup title in 2018.
"We have to pretty much win every game to get that home final which is what I think this team is capable of, or what par would be for this team," Dobson said ahead of WP's second game of the season, away to the Pumas at Mbombela Stadium in Nelspruit on Friday.
Western Province opened their campaign with an impressive 32-0 victory against Free State Cheetahs at Newlands last Saturday, but the tournament's new format has raised the stakes of every game and heaped pressure on all the teams involved, an aspect of the competition that Dobson is well aware of.
"There's no doubt it's increased the intensity and the pressure in the games already."
Western Province are expecting nothing but that intensity and pressure when they face the Pumas in Nelspruit.
"We know what's coming," Dobson said.
"We know it's a big pack of forwards, a good maul, a massive kicking game from [Stefan] Ungerer. They get real energy when they get in our 22."
Western Province have made a number of changes to their starting XV, including the return of Springboks Damian de Allende and Wilco Louw. In another change, Sergeal Petersen has come into the team, with Dillyn Leyds shifting to fullback, because of their combined attacking potential.
Dobson lauded Petersen's cameo in the win against his former team the Cheetahs.
"[Sergeal Petersen] played last week like it was dry. He looked to run everything, he's very good in the air and at his best he's one of the best wings in South Africa."
He added that Leyds playing in the No. 15 jersey made for a more threatening counter-attacking option.
"For this game, Dillyn's counter-attacking skills, he's got a few more options at 15. On this sort of field and surface, it's probably his best position."
However, not all of the coach's changes were voluntary, especially in the cases of the returning Springboks.
"Obviously we can't say no to Wilco and Damian," Dobson said, but he noted that JJ Engelbrecht and Salmaan Moerat had been forced out of contention due to injury and a concussion respectively.
Part of the Pumas' strength comes from their coach, Jimmy Stonehouse, whom Dobson holds in high regard.
"The Pumas are very well drilled," Dobson said.
"They are very well organised. In your 22 they get a lot of energy. And he's obviously got a massive belief and culture there because, with all due respect to the Pumas, they aren't household names necessarily but they are unbeaten this season; they haven't lost a game, so he deserves credit."
Despite the Pumas challenge and the many ahead, coach Dobson is certain his team has what it takes.
"I think this is a really strong side and they are keen to play. If you combine the talent that is in this thing with the will, the vibe or the gees that's in this team, it's a good proposition."
TEAMS FOR THE WEEKEND
Friday, 31 August
Pumas vs. Western Province 18:30
Pumas: Gerrit Smith; JP Lewis, Ryan Nell, Hennie Skorbinski (c), Neil Maritz; Christopher Smith, Stefan Ungerer; Willie Engelbrecht, Stefan Willemse, Marnus Schoeman, Cameron Lindsay, Le Roux Roets, Marné Coetzee, Simon Westraadt, Khwezi Mona.
Substistutes: Marko Jansen van Vuuren, Andrew Beerwinkel, Hugo Kloppers, Hilton Lobberts, Nardus van der Walt, Reynier van Rooyen, Trompie Pretorius.
Western Province: Dillyn Leyds (c), Sergeal Petersen, Ruhan Nel, Damian de Allende, SP Marais, Josh Stander, Jano Vermaak, Juarno Augustus, Kobus van Dyk, Sikhumbuzo Notshe, JD Schickerling, Ernst van Rhyn, Wilco Louw, Scarra Ntubeni, Ali Vermaak.
Substitutes: Chad Solomon, Caylib Oosthuizen, Michael Kumbirai, Chris van Zyl, Herschel Jantjies, Dan du Plessis, Craig Barry.
Saturday, 1 September
Free State Cheethas vs. Sharks 14:00
Free State Cheetahs: Adriaan Carelse, Ali Mgijima, Carel-Jan Coetzee, Tersius Kruger, Lloyd Greeff, Louis Fouche, Rudy Paige (c), Niell Jordaan, Gerhard Olivier, Stephan Malan, Dennis Vissier, Louis Conradie, Gunther Janse van Vuuren, Reincah Venter, Kevin Stevens.
Substitutes: Jannes Snyman, Johan Kotze, Luigi van Jaarsveld, Abongile Nonkontwana, Dian Badenhorst, Vuyani Maqina, Reinhart Erwee.
Sharks: Curwin Bosch, Kobus van Wyk, Jeremy Ward, Marius Louw, Lwazi Mvovo, Robert du Preez, Louis Schreuder, Daniel du Preez, Tyler Paul, Wian Vosloo, Hyron Andrews, Gideon Koegelenberg, John-Hubert Meyer, Chiliboy Ralepelle (c), Juan Schoeman.
Substitutes: Kerron van Vuuren, Khutha Mchunu, Andrew Evans, Luke Stringer, Cameron Wright, Johan Deysel, Aphelele Fassi.
Blue Bulls vs. Golden Lions 16:05
Blue Bulls: Divan Rossouw, Jade Stighling, Jonny Kotze, JT Jackson, Jamba Ulengo, Manie Libbok, André Warner, Hanro Liebenberg (c), Jano Venter, Ruan Steenkamp, Eli Snyman, Hendré Stassen, Trevor Nyakane, Jaco Visagie, Matthys Basson.
Substitutes: Edgar Marutlulle, Conrad van Vuuren, Ruan Nortje, Thembelani Bholi, Ivan van Zyl, Tinus de Beer, Duncan Matthews.
Golden Lions: Andries Coetzee, Sylvian Mahuza, Lionel Mapoe, Howard Mnisi, Courtnall Skosan, Shaun Reynolds, Dillon Smit, Hacjivah Dayimani, Len Massyn, James Venter, Marvin Orie (c), Rhyno Herbst, Johannes Jonker, Corne Fourie, Sti Sithole.
Substitutes: Pieter Jansen, Danie Mienie, Jacobie Adriaanse, Reinhard Nothnagel, Vincent, Tshituka, Madosh Tambwe, Wandisile Simelane.