With only six matches of the 2018/19 PRO14 competition remaining, the Cheetahs have little time to turn their fortunes around after their close loss to Connacht last weekend.
They will have the opportunity to do so this weekend when they play the Scarlets in Llanelli. It is a must-win match for the Cheetahs as are all their remaining fixtures, against a Scarlets team that is also on 36 league points after 15 matches
These two adversaries are two of the 11 sides in the two conferences vying for one of the six play-off spots.
Scarlets are fifth in Conference B, the Cheetahs sixth in Conference A.
The Cheetahs’ negative points difference of 57 points, by far the most of the 11 remaining contenders, makes their even more difficult. They have to win and keep on winning. Matters will not easily go their way in a count-out should it come to that.
Permutations and forecasts for the run-in to the last six teams are impossible. What one can say with some certainty is that Leinster (63 points) in Conference B seem assured of a play-off spot. They are comfortably ahead of Treviso and Edinburgh, both on 41 points.
Ulster (39) and the Scarlets (36) could also still make the top three in Conference B.
In Conference A the two front-runners Munster (53 points) and Glasgow Warriors (51 points) can however both be caught and bettered by Connacht (42), the Ospreys (38), the Cardiff Blues (38) and the Cheetahs (36).
With time running out to make it into playoff contention, the Toyota Cheetahs will feel the heat on Sunday when they line up against the Scarlets in a crucial Guinness PRO14 match in Wales.
♦ In stark contrast to the Cheetahs, who suffered their first defeat after a five-match winning run last week, the Scarlets have battled to find their rhythm, which has seen them register only one victory in their last six matches. But the Welshmen will draw inspiration from the fact that they have suffered only one defeat at home this season.
The sides will enter the match equal on log points (36) with the Scarlets boasting seven victories to the Cheetahs’ six, but while the visitors have been more effective on attack with 57 tries to the home side’s 45, the Scarlets will rely on their solid defence to keep the visitors at bay after conceding 18 fewer tries in their 15 matches.
With a number of top performers in the competition in the Cheetahs’ team, including try-scoring machine Rabz Maxwane (most tries in the competition) and Junior Pokomela (most lineout steals), the visitors have the manpower to return to their winning ways.