The Highlanders showed in Friday's win over the Reds that they were bedding in the consistent performance they have been seeking.
Assistant coach Clarke Dermody said the most pleasing thing from the Reds' win was how the side handled being down to 13 players for eight minutes.
They didn't concede too many points in that time. The players who came on, finished the game well for the side. Finishing eight points up and not holding on for a win was nice for a change.
However, work still had to be done, Dermody said.
"We understand the position we put ourselves in. We started the season pretty slowly by our standards. Now we've given ourselves a chance.
"We've still got to play the Force and the Rebels, both teams fighting with us for that spot.
"We understand how big the game is in the context of our season. It's season-defining. It's a matter of making sure we get this week right," he said.
That involved allowing the players to recover from those three games on the road.
"They're all pretty good pros, so it's about being smart the first couple of days after we travel. Sleep's really important, and making sure they get their diet right.
"The performance aspect doesn't come until the end of the week."
Getting their bodies ready to go again and not overloading the side with information were also important.
While there has been criticism of the competition format, teams could only deal with what was in front of them, which was what the Highlanders were doing.
"We've given ourselves a chance. If we do a good job and get to the top eight, we'll see what happens from there.
"We're just playing the cards we get dealt," he said.
Dermody is wary of the Force's lineout ability. Former Hurricanes lock Paul Tito is responsible for the Force lineout, and Dermody said he had developed the best lineout defence in the competition.
"They'll be trying to starve us of possession. They're pretty gritty, once they're in games, they stay in them," he said.
At the weekend, they were unfortunate when they struck the Crusaders coming off a poor performance, so the Highlanders expected to face them at their best.