WP Nel was pleasantly surprised to be named in the Guinness Pro12 dream team of the season earlier this week, but the tight-head prop is more concerned about Edinburgh Rugby getting a crucial win over Leinster on Saturday rather than any personal accolades.
The 29-year-old has been the model of consistency for the capital outfit this term and has been involved in all of their 30 matches in the league and the European Rugby Challenge Cup to date.
This Leinster match is like a Test match for us because we need to winWP Nel
Match No 31 of a long campaign could be the most important for the South African-born tighthead prop, though, with Edinburgh welcoming Leinster to BT Murrayfield needing a win to try to finish in seventh place in the Pro12.
If the Scottish side win – and Connacht lose to the Ospreys – then that spot would be Edinburgh’s and they would then qualify for a play-off at Gloucester next weekend to keep their Champions Cup dream for 2015-16 alive.
“We need to get a massive win this weekend and keep our chances of the Champions Cup going. That is my main focus at the minute,” Nel, who qualifies to play for Scotland next month, said.
“If we get into the European play-offs, then it will be another possible two matches that we would face and that would be quite tough on us as players, but we have goals as a team and a club and we are very driven to extend our season and we are positive and up for the games.
“This Leinster match is like a Test match for us because we need to win and we need to be physically ready for what they bring at us in our last home match.
“Their pack will certainly be a good challenge for us up front and, as forwards, those are the kind of matches that we like.”
In the professional game nowadays not many props are involved week in, week out with most being afforded a rest from time to time. Out of the 30 matches so far, Nel has started 21 and been on the bench nine times.
Of those starts, 14 have come in the last 14 matches, but he is not complaining about wearing the No 3 shirt on the majority of occasions.
He said: “It is different than playing in South Africa because the most you will play there in Super Rugby is 16 matches, while the level of physicality over here is just a lot harder on your body than back home.
“There is no secret to being able to play in all of the matches. I think it is, maybe, just a bit of luck and I am just grateful to play when I can.
“I have been quite pleased with my own form, but it has taken a lot of hard work from all of the guys in the pack and the team in general to get us to where we are.
“As a pack, we have really started to perform and I am just happy that the hard work I have put in can help the team to get better.
“Getting into the team of the season gives you a boost as a player, but mainly it focuses you on continuing the good form and not to drop your level of play.”
Nel certainly is not a man to shirk a challenge and he admits that, with new faces and a number of nationalities in the forward pack, it was difficult in the early weeks of the campaign to hit top form.
“There was times at the start of the season when things were not working out for us as a group of forwards. We came together at one stage and had a hard talk with each other,” he said.
“We said that, if we want to achieve something, then we needed to work harder and work better as a unit.
“I think we have done a pretty good job of this in recent months.”
Meanwhile, Edinburgh have been handed a boost ahead of the match with the news that the Leinster talisman, Gordon D’Arcy, is unlikely to be involved.
D’Arcy and his wife are expecting their first child this week and he is not expected to travel.
Darragh Fanning has also been ruled out of selection for the game having picked up a slight injury to his right wrist which requires surgery.