Wayne Boardman hopes his encouraging Stormers debut against the Northern Bulls two weeks ago will be remembered as the first step towards ending a cycle which started in his final days at school.

Frequently during the past decade, Boardman has seemed on the threshold of breaking into the big time. All too often, he has fallen just short.

At other times he has reached his objective, but failed to make it last. A look at his sporting curriculum vitae makes interesting reading. It also tells a story.

The former KES schoolboy has never remained in one place for very long. Invariably failure, or the perception of failure, has seen him pack his bags and head for a new home.

Like in 1997, when after a season contracted to Natal he was called in by coach Ian McIntosh and politely told that his rugby life might be better spent elsewhere.

"Mac was very good to me and I appreciated his honesty," said Boardman before flying out with the Stormers for the overseas leg of the Super 12.

"I had been contracted by Natal when I came back from overseas to spend my Christmas holiday at home in 1996/1997. I was told that Steve Atherton was leaving Natal to link up with an English club and after a few inquiries they contracted me for 12 months.

"But Atherton returned earlier than expected and John Welborne also joined the union from Australia. John Slade was already established and Mark Andrews was the first choice."

McIntosh told Boardman that it would be better for his career if he moved to a smaller union where he would be guaranteed more game time and exposure.

"It was the best advice I ever received because my career really took off when I joined the Falcons under Phil Pretorius in 1998," said Boardman.

Indeed, for a long time it seemed Boardman might feature in national coach Nick Mallett's plans for the Springboks. His prowess in the lineouts and his aggression in the tight-loose played a big part in the Falcons' dream season, where they failed by the narrowest of margins to join Griquas amongst the big guns in the Currie Cup semi-finals.

"I worked well under Pretorius, who is a good coach. The union was run very professionally and we experienced an unbelievable year," said Boardman. "In particular, I benefited from playing alongside New Zealander Paul Henderson, who boasted much experience and was influential in our revival. Everything seemed really set for a great second year in 1998 but it just didn't work out like that.

"The other teams had got to know our style. Whereas in 1998 we had very few televised matches and no one else got much chance to study our style, in 1999 we were not such an unknown quantity anymore."

It was his desire to realise his latent potential that saw Boardman make the trek from the Falcons' home venue in Brakpan - the players were actually based in Fourways outside Johannesburg - to George, where he has linked up with the SWD Eagles.

More than anything else, it was the lure of possibly representing the Stormers in the Super 12 that prompted him to make the move.

"After being thrown in at the deep end by playing off the bench for the Sharks in the 1997 Super 12, I was determined to get back into the competition and prove that I could do it," says Boardman.

"I will never forget starting in the semifinal against Auckland at Eden Park. We had several guys out injured, and they hammered us. It was a sobering experience and the memory of it has added to my determination to get back and prove myself again."

Boardman could have played Super 12 with the Northern Bulls, but fell out of the bus during an idiotic early season tour to Wales. The Bulls were not prepared for the strength of the Welsh clubs, losing all but one of their matches. As Boardman put it, he arrived back at Johannesburg International Airport, bade farewell to coach Eugene van Wyk and never heard from anyone remotely connected with the Bulls ever again.

"To be honest, the tour was a disaster for me. Part of the problem was that the squad was divided into two groups. I was in the inferior of the two groups and never really stood a chance.

"It was extremely disappointing as I had worked very hard to get back into the Super 12 stream."

There was little point in going back to try out with the Bulls again this year. A conversation with Stormers chief executive Rob Wagner convinced him a move south would be the wisest option open to him.

"Playing for the Stormers in that first match was like living out a dream," said Boardman. "In Brakpan we never had that much crowd support. Our biggest crowd of the 1998 season was for the match against WP, where we ran out to boos and they came out to cheers.

"So you can imagine the goose-flesh when we ran out at Newlands in the black of the Stormers to such a huge welcome. I have never experienced anything like it. It is only a pity that we did not deliver something for the crowd to enthuse about."

But while the match, which ended in a 19-all draw and was described afterwards by referee Andre Watson as atrocious, was utterly forgettable, Boardman's performance wasn't. On three occasions he poached balls off the opposition throw, so helping the Stormers to their most convincing lineout display since Johnny Trytsman's retirement.

"Obviously lineouts are the primary phase for a lock and for the past few years I have put in even more work into this aspect of my game," he said. "I pride myself on my ability to take opposition balls and it is a great string to my bow. I have averaged about two or three a game for the past three years.

"It's quite easy if you put your mind to it. In the end it comes down to learning to anticipate and read what the opposition are going to do."

He was shy to admit it, but one of Boardman's most cherished memories was the way he poached a ball off Trytsman, then regarded as one of the best in the country, when WP were in an attacking position against the Falcons in Brakpan in 1998. The Falcons went on to win a tight game and Boardman's effort stood out as a potential match-winning moment.

Now that the retirement of Trytsman and the injury to Boome has given him his chance, Boardman is determined to make full use of what he knows could be a visit to the 'Last Chance Saloon'.

"After three years in the wilderness the chance to play Super 12 again is one that I have to take with both hands. The attitude down here suits me, the mentality is more to my liking than it is elsewhere. This is the most comfortable I have ever felt in a rugby team."

Should he make a success of the tour matches and become an established Super 12 player, Boardman would have ended the restlessness that he has felt ever since his matric year.

It was then that he first experienced the sharp frustration which can afflict sportsmen when they fail to realise a dream.

Only it came not on the rugby field, but on the cricket pitch. Boardman was by all accounts one of the finest schoolboy cricketers in Transvaal at the time. He took more wickets than anybody else with his fast bowling at the cricket week from which the Nuffield Week team was to be selected. But although considered a virtual certainty, school cricket politics can work in strange ways.

He was ignored by the selectors and left in the cold. He never took cricket seriously again and was not to regard himself as a serious sportsman again until he had moved to Perth in Australia. It was there that his rugby began to develop. Although he had been "a very average player" at school, Boardman found himself representing Western Australia at state level.

"Up until 1993 I played a bit of club rugby for the Wanderers in Johannesburg, but it was when I got to Perth that my career took off. The club league over there was surprisingly competitive, dominated as it is by New Zealanders.

"Western Australia were regarded as the best of the B Division state teams, and we played well before going down 44-28 to New South Wales when they stopped by on the way to South Africa on a Super 12 tour."

Boardman did so well in Western Australia that he was lured back to Transvaal, where he played for Transvaal B. After failing to break into the Currie Cup team, he moved from there to Italy, where he represented L'Aquila, the former club of Springbok Rob Louw.

"They have a great rugby tradition but as the only foreigner in the team I did find the language a bit difficult," admitted Boardman. Not that Boardman has any difficulty communicating with different nationalities.

Rugby is becoming an international language, and one of the highlights of his life was his role in helping the Tongans at last year's World Cup.

"I knew their coach Dave Waterstone very well from his days in Johannesburg and he asked me to join them as a lineout coach," said Boardman.

"It started with me helping during the six-week camp they held in South Africa, but they were impressed enough to ask me to come with them to Britain. I paid for my airfare but all the other expenses were on them."

Boardman's presence paid off with an almost perfect lineout performance against the feared All Blacks in the opening match, when only one Tongan ball was lost against the throw.

"I missed watching the 1995 World Cup because I was in Perth so it was a great experience to be so close to the action," he says.

If things go well for him over the next few weeks, it is not totally beyond the realms of possibility that he could be even closer to the action in 2003.