Alex Cuthbert is determined to leave the Cardiff Blues back among Europe’s elite before he leaves for Exeter Chiefs this summer.
The Wales wing will face the Southern Kings in Port Elizabeth on Saturday, hoping to end the Blues’ four year spell outside of the Champions Cup.
To return to the top tier tournament, Danny Wilson’s side must finish fourth in Conference A of the Guinness Pro14. They currently enjoy an eight-point gap over the Ospreys, who have a game in hand and play in Ulster on Friday night.
It is a critical couple of weeks for the Blues with Pro14 play-off places and a European Challenge Cup semi-final against Pau at the Arms Park next week.
Cuthbert, who has spent seven years with the region, says: “A win here would make that travel back a lot easier going into such a big week next week with that semi-final.
“A lot of boys are playing for places for that semi but first of all it’s about getting the result this weekend. Hopefully, we can start well and play for the full 80, it’s going to be a completed 23-man squad effort.
“For me personally I’ve been in the squad for such a long time it would be great to leave with the boys in the Champions Cup for next year.
“That’s a big motivation and another is playing well for myself after coming back from such a long injury and getting involved in that semi-final.
“Those are the big games you want to play in, especially at the Arms Park. It would be a nice send off if I do get selected for that game next week.”
Following last week’s agonising injury-time defeat to Toyota Cheetahs, the Blues know they must prevail in Port Elizabeth to further consolidate fourth place.
The Kings have only won one Pro14 game all season and are rock bottom of Conference B, so Cuthbert – whose Wales days will come to an end with his decision to play in England after 47 caps – is clear his farewell stint can afford no slip-ups.
“You could say we are disappointed not to have come away with a win against the Cheetahs but with the travel arrangements and what happened, if you had offered us a point we would have bitten your arm off.
“After that we’re going into this week knowing it is a must win game considering what is at stake with the Champions cup next year.
“We need to keep on top of the Ospreys, who are right behind us so a win this weekend is a must and we have prepared like that. This is a big game for all of us.”
The Blues spent the week in Cape Town, training at the Stormers and Western Province’s high performance centre, before jetting to Port Elizabeth.
Wilson has made eight changes from the side that lost in Bloemfontein last week. Scott Andrews is given the nod in the front-row with Josh Turnbull coming into the second-row.
Nick Williams starts at No.8 and Ellis Jenkins captains the side. In the backs, Gareth Anscombe switches to full-back with Jarrod Evans partnering Tomos Williams at half-back, while Rey Lee-Lo returns to the centre.
Southern Kings: TBC
Cardiff Blues: Gareth Anscombe; Alex Cuthbert, Rey Lee-Lo, Willis Halaholo, Blaine Scully; Jarrod Evans, Tomos Williams; Rhys Gill, Kirby Myhill, Scott Andrews, Seb Davies, Josh Turnbull, Josh Navidi, Ellis Jenkins (Capt), Nick Williams.
Replacements: Ethan Lewis, Brad Thyer, Anton Peikrishvili, Damian Welch, Olly Robinson, Lloyd Williams, Garyn Smith, Matthew Morgan