The unbeaten Waikato Chiefs and Western Stormers go head-to-head this week in a Super Rugby clash that will shake up the battle for top spot.
The Chiefs go into Saturday's game two points behind the Canterbury Crusaders, who have a bye, meaning they are able to seize control of the New Zealand conference.
The Stormers were thrashed 60-21 in the quarter-finals by the Chiefs last year and coach Robbie Fleck sees the game as a chance to measure their progress since that low point.
"We can see improvements from last year, but this is the real test. This is the team that put us to the sword last year. So there is big motivation for this game," he said.
"We haven't faced a team as good as them this year and this is a great chance for us to see how far we have come."
The Chiefs headed to Cape Town without flanker Sam Cane and prop Nepo Laulala due to concussion, while centre Johnny Fa'auli has been suspended for a dangerous tackle.
The Stormers also have roster problems with international centres Damian de Allende, Juan de Jongh and Huw Jones all injured. They have recruited former Otago Highlanders midfielder Shaun Treeby to plug the gap.
Meanwhile the defending champions, the Hurricanes, will try to maintain New Zealand's domination of Australian sides when they host the NSW Waratahs in Wellington.
Of 11 trans-Tasman clashes so far this season the Australian sides have lost the lot, with the Waratahs beaten last week by the Crusaders 41-22.
- Parking 'The Bus' -
The 'Tahs, who get Bernard Foley back after sitting out five of the first six rounds with concussion problems, see the game as make or break for the season.
"They're the champions, they won last year, they're in red-hot form so you really know where you sit in terms of the competition (after) playing both the Crusaders on Sunday and then backing up against the Hurricanes this Friday night," attack coach Chris Malone said.
"This will give us a good idea if we're good enough to take out the title or not."
However, the long-awaited clash between Taqele "Big T" Naiyarvoro and his Hurricanes opposite wing Julian "The Bus" Savea will not eventuate with Savea being rested after playing every game so far.
Australia's Western Force and South African franchise Southern Kings, two sides likely to be in the firing line should the competition be trimmed from 18 to 15 teams, meet in Perth on Sunday.
The Jaguares are in Durban to play the Coastal Sharks with both sides on 18 points, five behind the Lions in the Africa 2 conference, but the Argentinians have a game in hand.
The ACT Brumbies, who have lost three but still lead the Australian conference, are at home in Canberra to the Queensland Reds.
The Reds, already without suspended playmaker Quade Cooper, have dropped Wallabies scrumhalf Nick Frisby as they look to stem a run of five consecutive defeats.
The Northern Bulls, after a tough two-loss stop in New Zealand, should find the going easier when they play the struggling Sunwolves in Tokyo.