Glasgow Warriors possess the belief and motivation to clinch the United Rugby Championship title for the first time in nine years, according to fullback Josh McKay.

But he is aware that a critical moment in their season is coming up when the league leaders travel to South Africa.

A 40-9 victory away to Zebre Parma on Saturday, combined with Leinster’s defeat at the Stormers, propelled Franco Smith’s side four points clear at the top of the United Rugby Championship standings with three rounds of the regular season to go.

McKay returned from illness to start at full-back as a much-changed Warriors side got the job done by bagging a bonus point ahead of their southern hemisphere double-header against the Bulls and Lions.

Warriors fans have reason to start dreaming of a first league triumph since claiming the Pro12 crown in 2014/15 – and McKay admitted the players can be cautiously optimistic too when asked if they believe in the title.

“Absolutely. There’s a lot of belief in this group,” said the New Zealander.

“Everyone is motivated. It would be a massive step forward for the club. But we’ve still got a big job ahead of us in South Africa and back at home when we play Zebre again [on the final day].

“There are still three big games left before we start putting our eyes on that. The excitement is definitely there in the group to go and do the job.”

Scotland Rugby News: Glasgow Warriors' Josh McKayGlasgow Warriors' Josh McKay (Image: SNS)

Next up for the Warriors is a long trip south to face the Bulls and the Lions in Pretoria and Johannesburg respectively.

With the Bulls currently fourth, seven points behind Glasgow, and the Lions looking to make a late push into the playoff spots, the double-header is sure to provide a stern test of Glasgow’s mettle.

But with two weeks to prepare – the Bulls game is slated for May 11 and the Lions clash a week later – McKay urged his team-mates to seize the opportunity.

“We’ve put ourselves in a good spot to go deep into this competition. You definitely can’t take that for granted,” said the full-back.

“We’re all riding it until the end, everyone is going all in on it. We’re no longer in Europe.

“I think the way the competition is going to finish up, leading into playoffs will suit us with a couple of weeks off where we can really hone in on the training but also get fresh with no games at the weekend.

“South Africa is going to be huge for us and can be a good springboard into the tail end of the season.”

Although no silverware is handed out for final league positions, final placement can have a big say in a team’s playoff chances.

The top four earn home quarter-finals, the top two potential home semi-finals, and the regular season winners a home final if they make it that far.

READ MORE: Preferred venues for Glasgow Warriors' URC play-offs revealed

Glasgow have won every home URC game this season and have lost just once at Scotstoun in all competitions, against Northampton Saints in the European Champions Cup in December.

“Of course, any team is going to want to play at home over going away aren’t they? We would love to play as many games at home as possible in front of our friends and family,” McKay said.

“But we don’t want to look at it from far back, we just want to take it one game at a time and by doing that, to keep it simple, we’ve just got to keep winning, not get too far ahead of ourselves.”

Glasgow’s strength in depth has helped send them to the top of the standings this season, with a raft of under-22 players including hooker Gregor Hiddleston, lock Max Williamson, utility forward Euan Ferrie and scrum-half Jamie Dobie stepping up.

Scotland Rugby News: Max Williamson has been one of Glasgow's stand-outs this seasonMax Williamson has been one of Glasgow's stand-outs this season (Image: SNS)

All four were involved in Italy, with Hiddleston scoring a brace of tries, Dobie crossing once and Ferrie coming off the bench to set one up, while Williamson was named Player of the Match a week earlier against the Sharks.

McKay was full of praise for the way head coach Smith has managed the squad throughout the season to avoid burnout and give everyone opportunities.

“You need a big squad that is ready to go and can turn up on any day, because it’s such a long season with both competitions, Europe and the URC,” McKay said.

“It takes a toll on a lot of boys. We lose a lot during the Test windows as well.

“I think Franco has done a really good job at blooding a lot of players. A lot of players are not just getting one or two games a season, there are a lot getting good-quality minutes and when they step in, they’re doing a good job.

“The depth is crucial - you need a good squad to go deep into these competitions.”