Biarritz Olympique have contested 12 Heineken Cup tournaments - and Iain Balshaw believes they will only make that 13 if they go all the way and win the Amlin Challenge Cup final at the Twickenham Stoop on Friday, 18 May, and qualify as the tournament champions.
The 2006 and 2010 Heineken Cup finalists moved up to 10th place in the Top 14 following their 15-14 win against ASM Clermont Auvergne last weekend but remain some way off the pace for a top six finish and automatic Heineken Cup 2012/13 qualification.
Biarritz qualified for the knock-out stages of the Amlin Challenge Cup as one of the three Heineken Cup Pool runners-up - the Scarlets and reigning Amlin Challenge Cup champions Harlequins were the others - and the French giants travel to Adams Park to meet London Wasps in Saturday's intriguing quarter-final.
"We are unlikely to make the top six places and qualify for the Heineken Cup that way so that makes the Amlin Challenge Cup a massively important competition for us," said full back Balshaw, capped 35 times by England and a British and Irish Lion tourist to Australia in 2001.
"The Amlin is a huge competition and the incentive for us is that we are three games - albeit three very hard games - away from a trophy and that trophy also provides the winner with the gateway into next season's Heineken Cup. We want to be playing in the best club competition in the world and that is the Heineken Cup but we have had a tremendously frustrating season so far because of our inconsistency - and that has shown in both our performances and results.
"Those unforced errors and turnovers had been killing us because if you give away around 12 of those chances then your opponents will take at least some of them and punish you with points. However, when we get our game spot on we can compete with anyone.
"Of course I know a fair bit about Wasps and in Director of Rugby Dai Young they have a fantastic manager and shrewd operator. We know they are also having something of a hard time in the Premiership and have a few long term injuries, but they will have the advantage of playing at home.
"Nicky Robinson is a key player for them but they also have some other dynamic backs and powerful ball carriers so if we gift them those unforced errors they will almost certainly take a few of them. But we will be focusing totally on ourselves and in getting the fundamentals right - the scrum, line-out and kick-offs - to give us a platform because we also have players capable of creating things."
Biarritz could be without star centre Damien Traille, the 32-year-old who won the last of his 87 French caps as a replacement in the 2011 Rugby World Cup final, due to a foot injury suffered in the crucial 34-17 Round 21 win in Lyon.
But fellow World Cup stars Dimitri Yachvili and Imanol Harinordoquy are back in club action after the RBS 6 Nations championship and vital to Biarritz prospects of making the last four.
"Those guys bring so much invaluable experience to the squad," said Balshaw. "Dimitri is one of the best scrum halves in the world and his goal kicking is second to none. He is pivotal to our game and when he is not available we certainly miss him badly.
"Imanol is the team's talisman, as well as being one of the game's greatest back row forwards, and his ball carrying and work rate around the field are phenomenal. We are fortunate that most of our squad is fit and raring to go and we have to approach the Wasps match as a fantastic chance of qualifying for the semi-finals."
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