Hugh McMeniman is set to miss Friday night's crucial match against the Brumbies through suspension, forcing Western Force coach Michael Foley to reshuffle his back row for the clash in Canberra.
With Gus Cottrell sidelined with a broken leg, Foley has two options - Chris Alcock, an openside flanker who has not played since having shoulder surgery in March, or Brynard Stander, who has impressed with his bullocking runs as an impact player from the reserves bench.
The Force can secure a maiden finals appearance with a win, but also can advance with a defeat, provided other results fall their way.
McMeniman was shown a yellow card by referee Angus Gardner in Saturday night's 30-20 win over Queensland after dropping a knee into the ribs of Reds fly-half Ben Lucas. But the citing commissioner upgraded the offence to a red card.
Super Rugby governing body SANZAR is expected to confirm the suspension today.
Foley also awaits on updates on fly-half Zack Holmes (leg) and centre Marcel Brache (head wound), but said scrum-half Alby Mathewson and playmaker Sias Ebersohn could return from injury to play the Brumbies.
Foley was happy with the way his players stepped up against the Reds after the heavy defeat by the Blues a week earlier, but admitted further improvement was needed if they were to make the play-offs.
"The way we played early was really good, but playing in what is effectively a final next week we'll need to be a little better in some areas," Foley said.
"From an overall perspective I was pleased that the guys went out there and got stuck in from the start.
"We didn't play our best footy, not even our best footy from this year, but we got the win and we had to get that win. It has kept us alive."
The Force suffered jitters when McMeniman was sent from the field and the Reds grabbed a try against the run of play.
Then, with the normally reliable Jayden Hayward putting a couple of penalties wide, the Reds levelled the scores at 20-all with 12 minutes to play before Nathan Charles sealed the game, finishing an excellent try.
"As the game progressed we were loose among a number of details that need to be better," Foley said.
"We have to play better again."
Foley's men may know exactly what they have to do on Friday night if they take a peek at the result of the earlier game between the Blues and Chiefs in Auckland, but Foley said they would do everything possible to avoid it.
"There's a real danger in that (knowing the result)," Foley said.