IT'S a playoff almost every team would prefer to avoid but come today afternoon, South Africa's the Bulls will have to front it up against arch rivals the Crusaders in Christchurch in the first of two Super Rugby qualifiers.
The home team's form this season hasn't been as consistent as in previous seasons but everyone acknowledges that when it comes down to the business end of the competition, the Crusaders are hardest to beat, especially at home.
Since the competition started in 1996 as the Super 12, the Crusaders have won it seven times and have lost three finals and three semi-finals. The Bulls have won it thrice and ended up as losing semi-finalists also thrice.
Although the Bulls' successes in the finals have been more in recent years compared to the Crusaders', all the statistics favour the latter.
The New Zealand franchise have won 18 of 24 playoffs, 14 of them at home.
The Bulls, on the other hand, have never won a playoff outside of South Africa and it's been 15 years since they last beat the Crusaders in Christchurch in a regular season game.
The last game though was won 32-30 by the Bulls at Loftus Versfeld earlier in the season, in a game marred by two controversies. One was the allegation by the Bulls of eye-gouging which was never proven. When an apology was sought, the South Africans refused.
The other had a direct effect on the result. It was later proven that a match official had made a wrong call against the Crusaders when they were on the way to a match-winning try.
But both teams agree that that is history.
The Crusaders make three changes to the side today, two in the forwards, and will be without star No 8 Kieran Read for the second week in a row due to a rib injury, which means retaining Richie McCaw in that position.
For the Bulls the only change is in bringing back lock Flip van der Merwe who has recovered from an injury.
McCaw has made clear that playing at home will come to nothing if his boys cannot control their discipline because in Morne Steyn, the Bulls have a player who can kick goals from just about anywhere in the opponents' half.
As team captain, this game must mean more to McCaw than anyone else because his team lost three playoffs against the Bulls - in 2007, 2009 and 2010 - all away.
The factor in favour of his team? The Bulls have lost in all their past seven trips to Christchurch.
The other qualifier for a spot in the semi-finals involves the Reds at home to the Sharks later today.
Reds' pivot Quade Cooper is out with a one-match ban for a dangerous tackle in last week's game against the Waratahs and it's as yet unconfirmed if the franchise will appeal.
The statistics too favour the home team and defending champions.
The Reds lost 27-22 earlier in the season but are on a six-game unbeaten streak while the Sharks have lost six of seven playoffs outside South Africa.
Just like the Crusaders, the form of the Reds this season has been more like a yo-yo, but they too know when they need to up the ante.
The Reds have the least points amongst the top six but are placed third in the table by virtue of being Australian conference winners, thereby giving them a home qualifier.
For the most part of the season the Brumbies led the Australian conference but five months of good rugby came unstuck last week when they lost at home 30-16 to the lowly Blues while the Reds finished off the Waraths at home 32-16.
The two Australian teams finished level on points but the Reds took their place in the qualifiers by having more wins in the regular season.