Wallabies and Waratahs winger Drew Mitchell has a strong chance of being named in a Waratahs jersey for the first time in over a year against the Cheetahs.
After picking up an horrific ankle injury against the Reds last April, Mitchell defied the odds to return in time for last year's Rugby World Cup, only to suffer another injury blow in the pool match against Russia, this time to his hamstring.
But after another seven months on the sidelines, Mitchell is finally poised for a return to the action. The news is a welcome boost for NSW fans and players, as the Waratahs look to roll the Cheetahs at home and exact revenge for the visitors' 2011 victory, their first win in Sydney and second (over NSW) in Super Rugby history.
As the squad prepare to leave their Cape Town base for Bloemfontain later today, Mitchell admitted it's been a tough journey. "It's been a long time – it's been tough. "
"This is something I've been looking forward to. It's been hard not being able to help the boys throughout the season, especially as it's not gone our way. But I'm excited now and there's a few nerves there too."
After seven months of rehab with only himself and the conditioning and medical staff for company, the winger is enjoying feeling like a rugby player again. "To some extent I've been like an individual athlete, going about my rehab and running."
"To now be involved in team sessions and have a football in my hand again is brilliant."
"The boys have experienced some tough losses in the last few matches in particular but that's bound the group together. Trips like this, where you're in each other's company day in, day out, also make groups a lot tighter," he said of the squad's two week stay in South Africa.
As he prepares for his long-awaited return, Mitchell can take confidence from seeing a fellow injured Wallaby Quade Cooper make a successful return to the action to help the Reds to victory last weekend.
"It was great to see Quade back out there, showing the confidence he did to play. "
"There was no hesitation going into the contact area, I'm hoping that all things go the same for me."
Although the return of Tatafu Polota-Nau will boost the front row, concerns over the fitness of lock Sitaleki Timani and flanker Rocky Elsom mean Waratahs Head Coach Michael Foley will wait until Friday afternoon before naming the team to play the Cheetahs.