Super Rugby has arrived at its final regular-season round with five of the seven games having a bearing on the make-up of the top eight.
The two key matches of the weekend come in Sydney and Durban, with next week's quarterfinal line-up remaining unknown until the final whistle sounds in the Sharks-Jaguares clash.
Aussie derby carries extra weight for Rona, Kuridrani
The Brumbies will be chasing an unlikely bonus-point win when they face the Waratahs on Saturday night, the ACT franchise making a late run at the playoffs with a strong run of form at the tail end of the regular season.
They will know whether or not they are still alive after the Rebels' game against the Highlanders on Friday; should the Melbourne side pick up a bonus point the Brumbies' finals hopes will be dead and buried.
If that does turn out to be the case, the Brumbies will still be desperate to deny the Waratahs' the No.2 seeding for the finals and turn the tables on their earlier defeat this season.
There are also several key Wallabies positional battles, headlined by Curtis Rona and Tevita Kuridrani at outside centre. With Samu Kerevi, who Michael Cheika used exclusively in the No.13 jersey against Ireland, out for the season with injury, the outside centre spot for the Bledisloe opener on August 18 appears to be up for grabs.
Kuridrani is the likely starter as Kerevi's replacement given the Fijian's long history in the gold jersey, but there is no doubting the improvement in Rona's game since his move east from Perth. The former Force back has struck up a nice combination with Kurtley Beale in midfield, Rona running some excellent lines both as a ball-runner and a decoy.
After a slow start to the season, which could be said for the Brumbies on the whole, Kuridrani is finishing the year in impressive fashion. Known to sometimes drift in and out of games, the Brumbies centre is back to his hard-running best with his best performances coming against the Hurricanes and Chiefs over the last two weeks.
But the opportunity is certainly there for Rona on Saturday night, particularly in attack. If the former NRL player can get in behind Kuridrani, it may be enough to swing the selection vote his way next month. Cheika knows what Kuridrani offers but Rona is still very much a work-in-progress; this is a massive opportunity for the Waratahs rookie.
New Zealand conference
Why McKenzie swap isn't all bad for Chiefs
The Chiefs are without star fly-half Damian McKenzie for Friday's visit of the Hurricanes, but it shouldn't worry the two-time champions too much and it may even turn out to be a blessing in disguise.
His brother, Marty, will instead wear the No.10 jersey with Damian taking the week off for the second of his All Blacks rest breaks. It may appear to be the worst timing imaginable, but coach Colin Cooper probably isn't too fazed given his side will likely face the Canes once more in seven days' time.
By resting Damian McKenzie, Cooper doesn't risk the reality of playing all of the Chiefs' cards in attack. The Waikato side can adopt a more measured approach with his brother, Marty, piloting the ship while focusing on set-piece control and their defensive structures.
Given the Hurricanes' weapons in attack, and the fact that they have their best available backline on show on Saturday, the Chiefs will get a great look ahead of next week's likely quarterfinal in Wellington.
Coming off the back of a four-try performance against the Blues, Ngani Laumape is nearing his best form after a mixed season to date while Wes Goosen has retained the No.13 jersey and Jordie Barrett remains at fullback.
The Hurricanes, too, are unlikely to roll out their entire attacking arsenal but the Chiefs will at least get a look at their shape and the set-piece plays TJ Perenara coordinated, with great success, last week against the Blues.
Meanwhile, Damian McKenzie will be resting up on the sidelines. The Chiefs have the ability to upset the Hurricanes, too, but they shouldn't be too downtrodden should Friday's game end in defeat. There is plenty the Chiefs can learn ahead of the quarterfinal.
South African conference
Added motivation for Lions' final roar
The Lions have been rocked by the news that many star players are leaving at the end of the season.
Centre Rohan Janse van Rensburg has signed with the Sale Sharks in England. Prop Ruan Dreyer and lock Franco Mostert announced back in May that they will be joining former coach Johan Ackermann at Gloucester, while flank Jaco Kriel confirmed that he was making the same move.
This comes after Lions also lost hooker Akker van der Merwe (Sharks), Faf de Klerk (Wasps) and Ruan Ackermann (Gloucester) over the last 18 months, while it seems that fullback Andries Coetzee, fly-half Elton Janties, centre Lionel Mapoe, flank Cyle Brink and prop Jacques van Rooyen are also planning to leave the den.
Essentially, it's the end of an era for the Lions, who have managed to two Super Rugby finals over the last couple of seasons, but just haven't been able to get over that final hurdle.
With sweeping changes expected next year, this could be their last chance to actually compete for the title for some time, as they essentially have to rebuild from scratch.
After a bit of a wobble against the Sharks following the international break -- and a much-needed week off -- the Lions' quest to win the restarts this weekend with a derby against the Bulls. It's a match they have to win to get home advantage in the playoffs as conference winner.
The Lions' 'golden generation' is breaking up, but they will want to finish their Joburg stint in style.