By Altus Momberg
Hooker Dale Santon will play a major part in the Boland Cavaliers' hopes of ensuring a home semifinal when they meet the undefeated Blue Bulls at Loftus in the Vodacom Cup competition on Saturday.
Boland must beat the Bulls to ensure a home semifinal if Western Province lose to Free State at Newlands.
Santon is one of the key players in Boland's great run in the competition, but he attributes the team's success as the reason for his own revival.
"It is easy to play well when the team's performing... everyone plays with confidence and things keep going right," the 31-year-old said this week.
Santon, who was a member of Nick Mallett's Springbok squad at the end of 1997, admitted that he is playing his best rugby of the last two seasons and says it all comes down to enjoyment.
He also acknowledges that he still has ambitions of playing for South Africa again.
"I'll be lying if I say that I don't think about it ... everyone wants to play for their country.
"I feel that I will be able to do better now if I'm selected again. I know now what will be expected of me and am more motivated at the moment," he said.
The hooker's growing confidence has an impact on all facets of his play and even his perceived weakness - his throw-ins at lineouts - has improved beyond measure this season.
Santon's career seemed to be just about over towards the end of last year. He struggled with his fitness and Martin van Jaarsveld - the first choice hooker at the time - was one of the stars of Boland's Currie Cup campaign.
However, Santon reclaimed his place in the starting line-up this season. He has scored tries throughout the competition and is one of the hardest players in the country to stop from five metres out. Santon featured strongly in Boland's near-perfect 78-24 demolition of the South Western Districts Eagles at Wellington.
Boland scored 12 tries and played for the full 80 minutes, the way coach Rudy Joubert wants them to play.
Santon admits there is a worry that the side might be over-confident after such a performance but added that Joubert told them to put last week's win behind them.
Blue Bulls: David Manuel, Hannes Venter, Giscard Pieters, Tiaan Joubert, Keegan Fredericks, Jaco van der Westhuyzen, Norman Jordaan, Chris le Roux (capt), Johan Wassermann, Schutte Bekker, Francois van Schouwenburg, Piet Myburgh, Pierre Ribbens, Danie Coetzee, Wessel Roux. Bench: Richard Bands, Rudi Durandt, Bakkies Botha, Danie Rossouw, Robbie Jansen van Rensburg, Jacques Schutte, Rayno Hendricks
Boland: Robert Markram, John Daniels, WP Strauss, Chelton April, Lean van Dyk, Riaan van Jaarsveld, Cassie Carstens, Henley du Plessis, Hannes de Kock, Jannie Coetzee (capt), Vion Wium, Heino Senekal, Andries Human, Dale Santon, Fabian Brandt. Bench: Martin van Schalkwyk, Pieter Terblanche, Henk Eksteen, Randile Julies, Neil Papier, Connie Malherbe, Piet van Zyl
Kick off: 1pm (live on CSN)
If Boland lose to the Blue Bulls and Free State win, the latter will get a home semi. WP are out of the Vodacom Cup competition.
WP: Donovan van Vuuren, Desmond Houston, Jean de Villiers, Tinus Linee (capt), Egon Seconds, Yazeed Manuel, Dan van Zyl, Adri Badenhorst, Pietie Ferreira, Ryno van der Merwe, Thys Stoltz, Immanuel McKenzie, Neil du Toit, Louis Loubser, Toks van der Linde. Bench: Johan van Wyk, Piet Franken, Drickus Hanke, Fiela van Zyl, Johannes Conradie, Chris van Pletzen, Nico Alberts
Free State: Leon van den Heever, Ashwell Rapherty, De Wet Oelschig, MJ Smith, Ferdie Wesso, Conraad Barnard, Jimmy Powell, Attie Stander, Gromunko Mvusa, Henro Scholtz, Boela du Plooy (capt), Joe Beukes, Dougie Heymans, Andries van der Linde, Dirkie Groenewald. Bench: Attie Winter, Danie Saayman, Andre Smit, Gerrie Britz, Neil Powell, Christophe du Toit and Isaak Job
Kick off: 5pm (not televised)