It may only be their third game of the season but ACT Brumbies co-captain Sam Carter admits they face a conference-defining test against the Melbourne Rebels on Friday night.
The Rebels have burst out of the Super Rugby blocks this season and claimed back to back bonus point victories in their opening two games.
A third win against the Brumbies could open an 11-point gap with the reigning Australian conference champions.
It marks an incredible turnaround for the Rebels who won just one game last season - ironically against the Brumbies - and have never made the finals in their seven campaigns.
The Brumbies were upset in Melbourne last season but the tides have turned as the once easybeats are now the firm favourites for the match.
The Rebels have never won three games in a row and victory against the Brumbies would throw them into genuine finals and title contention.
Carter admits the Brumbies have endured a sluggish start to the season after narrowly getting past the Sunwolves in Tokyo and then falling against an undermanned Queensland Reds in Brisbane last week.
The skipper knows they must clean up their act and quickly if they want to contend for another Australian conference and extend their run of five straight finals appearances.
"It really is [a 10-point game]. Any time you come up against a team in your conference it's worth double because you get points and take them away from your opposition," Carter said.
"The Rebels are going to be dangerous, they're playing some good footy and have started well and they'll be really up for it in front of their home crowd."
The Brumbies scrum was monstered last week but Carter is confident with the return of Brumbies loosehead Scott Sio they can restore their reputation as one of the best set-piece teams in the country.
"We did a lot of work on our set-piece this week because we were very disappointed with out performance last Friday night, it wasn't up to our standard and will be a big focus in Melbourne," Cater said.
"We've always had a squad mentality and know if anyone goes out of the match day 23 that whoever comes in will know their role, that's what we're trying to drive this season."
The Rebels have called lock Ross Haylett-Petty into their starting XV after captain Adam Coleman failed to overcome a sore sternum.
Carter was in the Brumbies academy with Coleman seven years ago and said the Wallabies second-rower was a huge loss for the Rebels.
"We played together a long time ago, at end of 2010 and start of 2011, but it's massive [that he's out]," Carter said.
"We only found that out last night [Wednesday] and it's good for us but at the same time disappointing because you want to be coming up against the best players and obviously this week that won't be the case."
The Brumbies thrashed the Rebels 50-19 in a preseason match last month but Carter knows Super Rugby is a different beast and won't be taking much from the trial.
If the Brumbies drop points in Melbourne they'll have just five more Australian conference matches to make up the lost ground and face an uphill battle for the remainder of the season.
The finals are made up of conference winners and the five next best teams, but since that format was introduced two years ago there has never been two Australian teams in the post season.
Australian teams lost all 26 games against New Zealand opposition last year but don't face the Kiwis until round seven.
The Brumbies first trans-Tasman game is against the Highlanders in round nine.
SUPER RUGBY ROUND FOUR
Friday: Melbourne Rebels v ACT Brumbies at AAMI Park, Melbourne, 7.45pm. TV time: Live on Fox Sports.