Johannesburg: Nic White says he never thought he'd get another chance to represent the Wallabies again and has vowed to resurrect a Test career he feels is unfulfilled.
It will be four years next month since White's 22nd and last Test for the Wallabies, which was a forgetful evening at Eden Park that saw Australia trounced 41-13 by New Zealand.
Until recently the halfback was enjoying his rugby with Exeter in the UK but now finds himself running around in a Wallabies training shirt in Johannesburg on the cusp of possibly returning to the international scene against the Springboks on Saturday (Sunday AEST) in the first round of the Rugby Championship.
"It's been a bit surreal and something I probably at a point thought was never going to happen again," White said. "Coming back in I just pinch myself some mornings that I'm back. I just try to make the most of each day. Here I am giving it a crack."
Rugby Australia's former high performance boss Ben Whitaker reached out to White about 12 months ago asking if he'd ever come back to Australia. The answer was a resounding yes but he wasn't sure when that might be.
"There was a seed planted there and I didn't know if anything was going to come to fruition," White said. "I just had a few things I wanted to do in Europe and to experience and also show there were other parts to my game. I think I did that."
White believes he has plenty of unfinished business at Test level and also felt helpless at times watching some of the national side's painful defeats from afar since his last stint in Australian rugby.
It is a frank admission from the 29-year-old who by all accounts has improved his game in the northern hemisphere and will push regular starter Will Genia in a World Cup year.
"I didn't feel I gave the best of myself in that Wallaby jersey," said White, who debuted in 2013 under coach Ewen McKenzie. "I didn't feel as confident as perhaps I am now. Missing out on the last World Cup had a lot to do with it as well.
"It probably comes from age and experience as well but I feel more comfortable in myself and my own ability now to show the best of myself.
"It's difficult for guys [watching overseas], you feel helpless. There's not much you can do. You hope the [Wallabies] guys do well.
"I'm in here and have been working really hard with all the guys for three weeks but we need to go out and show something this week for all that hard work."
The Wallabies won't name their team until Thursday and it looms as a shootout between White and Joe Powell for a reserve halfback spot.
Two names who won't be there are Waratahs duo Nick Phipps and Jake Gordon, who despite being regulars in 2018 squads were snubbed this time by a new three-person selection panel of Michael Cheika, Scott Johnson and Michael O'Connor.
White does not have a Super Rugby contract for next season but has committed to returning in 2021, hence why he qualifies for the Wallabies. How that is viewed by Phipps and Gordon would be interesting to know.
"Of course they [Phipps and Gordon] will respond [to being left out]," White said. "It's only good for the jersey when you have a number of guys fighting for that spot. They'll be training hard and playing hard and with an opportunity they'll be trying to take it like Willy, Joey and myself too."
Halfbacks are usually the fittest of the lot in a rugby squad and it's safe to assume White has handled some of the gruelling fitness sessions in recent days better than some other bigger bodies.
Playing in Johannesburg comes with the extra challenge of thinner air as a result of being at altitude.
The Springboks usually start fast and will be aiming to do the same as they look to maintain an eight-year winning record against Australia on home soil.
White described Springboks halfbacks Faf de Klerk and Cobus Reinach as a "handful".
"I know a bit about them because I've played them in the English Premiership the last few years," White said. "Both live wires, both energetic, both very good players and both very good finishers who score a lot of tries. We're going to have to keep eyes on those two."
Meanwhile, Springboks winger Aphiwe Dyantyi has been ruled out of the weekend's Test with a hamstring injury. No timeline on Dyantyi's injury has been provided."
Coach Rassie Erasmus will name his team on Wednesday local time.