Cheetahs coach Naka Drotske admitted that his side's flyhalf issues have been central to their struggles in the Currie Cup this season.
The Bloemfontein side produced another schizophrenic performance at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday, with the introduction of Sias Ebersohn for Tewis de Bruyn for proving to be the catalyst for a second-half revival which was not quite enough.
The defeat sees the Cheetahs move to the bottom of the table and desperately holding out hope that they can sneak into the play-offs by securing the last semifinal spot.
De Bruyn was called on as the Cheetahs fourth different flyhalf this season as Drotske believed that Ebersohn was out of form, but they struggled to make much of the possession they got in the first half, playing very laterally without crossing the gainline.
Ebersohn gave them far more attacking purpose when he was brought on, and Drotske admitted that the uncertainty in the flyhalf position is having a major influence on his side's performances.
"We have a problem on flyhalf there is no doubt about that," he said.
"Sias lost form earlier in the season, credit to Tewis, it is always easier to come on when you are down 27-9 to try everything out and to try to get the game back.
"So there is no pressure when you come on at that stage," he added.
The Cheetahs boss said that his team will try to take the positives from their narrow defeat as they prepare to fight hard to get past the Griquas and the Blue Bulls and secure a place in the semifinals.
On the positive side we had intensity on attack in the second half which we struggled with over the last two or three games," Drotske said.
"There is a huge race for that fourth place in the play-offs between Griquas, the Bulls and ourselves," he added.
"Griquas are on 15 points, the Bulls are on 13 and we are on 12 - we are playing the Griquas next week in Bloemfontein and the Bulls are playing the Sharks in Durban.
"So it is a must win for us and there are three games to go and luckily we've got two in Bloem