Any fixture featuring Maitland and Merewether could be described as a crunch clash, but this one carries a little more weight than most.
The traditional rivals are pushing for the fifth and final spot in the Newcastle and Hunter Rugby Union semis with only three points separating them on the competition ladder.
Seventh-placed Maitland (26) are in pursuit of fifth-placed Merewether (29) with seven rounds remaining in the regular season and they meet at Marcellin Park on Saturday
The result from this encounter will be pivotal in deciding the make-up of the 2014 play-offs and Maitland skipper Dan Runchel understands the importance of the round-12 match.
“This is definitely a crunch game,” Runchel said.
“They are probably all crunch games from here on in because we have shot ourselves in the foot a little bit this year.
“In the end we just really need to win and if we do that we could take fifth place this weekend.”
Maitland’s need to taste victory at home this weekend is exacerbated by the fact they meet three of the top four teams in succession during the next month – Hamilton (44) and undefeated Wanderers (53) away followed by title holders The Waratahs (34).
“We have earmarked this one as one we need to win, especially considering we have Hamilton and Wanderers the next two weeks,” Runchel said.
“Merewether aren’t the side they used to be either and they are building a little bit like us, but they are pretty handy and always have that depth.”
Both teams come into the match on the back of a win, Maitland 19-8 against Easts and Merewether 18-14 versus University.
In their last meeting Merewether defeated Maitland 41-5.
The Blacks have named an unchanged line-up with breakaways Steve Belcher and James Johnston still out injured.
The other team in that mix with Maitland and Merewether is sixth-placed Nelson Bay (29), who tackle last-placed Lake Macquarie away, while The Waratahs meet Easts, Southern Beaches host Wanderers and Hamilton are up against University.
All matches kick off at 3pm.
In other news the Blacks will hold a fundraiser at Marcellin Park on Saturday for local Wallaroos representatives Mollie Gray and Margaret Watson ahead of their World Cup campaign in France next month.