I can play both sides and hopefully we can get a little spot on the bench or something like that you never know
Pat Cilliers has had to fight hard to get into the Springbok squad, and the versatile prop is determined to prove that he belongs at Test level.
After showing plenty of promise as a young prospect with the Sharks Cilliers battled a series of knee injuries which he admits tested his resolve and stunted his progress in Durban.
He told this website: "My [right] knee just wouldn't really come right. I tore my ACL ligament at the end of 2007 and then came back in 2008 and tore my cartilage, and came back and did it again in 2009.
"So I had three operations in the space of nearly two years and it was really tough coming back every time - that recovery and rehab process can take it out of you mentally," added Cilliers.
After fighting his way back from those injuries Cilliers struggled to break into the starting line-up at Kings Park, with a host of Springboks dominating the front row for the Sharks, and the Michaelhouse old boy took the big decision to sign with the Lions in search of more game-time.
"It was a very stressful decision for me to make, I am a Natal born and bred guy so to leave the Sharks was a huge decision but it has paid off so I think it was the right decision," he said.
Following some consistent form in an inexperienced Lions front row Cilliers got the indication he was on Bok coach Heyneke Meyer's radar when he was called up to the wider training group ahead of the June Tests against England.
The more experienced Bulls tighthead Werner Kruger got the nod ahead of him for the series against England, but Cilliers' consistency has presented him with a chance to prove himself in the Rugby Championship, especially as Coenie Oosthuizen's neck injury means that he is likely to get a spot on the bench for the Tests against Argentina.
Meyer has made it clear that he prefers his replacement prop to have the ability to play on both sides of the scrum to avoid having to make any compromises up front in the dying stages of a Test match, which means that Cilliers' experience at loosehead counts heavily in his favour.
"I have played loosehead in the past before, this year I have focused mostly on tighthead but I have played a little bit of loosehead for the Lions and the Sharks so I can play both sides and hopefully we can get a little spot on the bench or something like that you never know," he said.
The 25-year-old said that he is looking forward to learning as much as possible from scrum guru Pieter de Villiers in the next few weeks as he pushes for an opportunity to get stuck in to Argentina.
"With him being a legend in his own right I can work with him and learn from him. You can never stop learning in a position like prop, no matter what your age you can just keep learning and keep growing," he said.
With a lack of quality tightheads in South Africa Cilliers knows that the opening leg of the Rugby Championship represents a golden opportunity to prove he can compete at the highest level, and if he can turn in some convincing performances in an impact role then there should be fewer concerns about the Boks' front row depth.
By Michael de Vries