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Centre Odendaal still proving himself at Saints

Burger Odendaal celebrates scoring a try
Burger Odendaal celebrates his try in the semi-final win over Saracens [Rex Features]

Northampton Saints centre Burger Odendaal feels he still has to prove himself to his team-mates despite scoring a try in their Premiership semi-final win against Saracens.

It was the South African's first try for the club near the end of a season which began with injury problems that kept him out of action until the end of December.

Now, though, he has a chance of stepping out at a sold-out Twickenham in the Premiership play-off final against Bath as Saints look to win the title for only the second time.

"It's probably one of the hardest years I've had in my career," he told BBC Radio Northampton.

"The way it's turned out, I wouldn't have imagined it being like this.

"It was a struggle the first couple of months I got to the club and I'm so grateful we are actually in a position to win the trophy."

Because of the competition for places at Saints, Odendaal will have to wait to find out if director of rugby Phil Dowson - a member of the 2014 title-winning Saints team - starts him against Bath.

But Odendaal has learned to come to terms with the ups and downs of the game over the past few years.

He was in the Bulls team beaten by Cheetahs in South Africa's Currie Cup final in 2016 and his dreams for a new chapter in England with Wasps ended after four appearances in 2022 when they went into administration.

Odendaal returned to Japanese rugby, where he had played earlier in his career, before being picked up by Saints for the 2023-24 season.

'Lucky to get the nod' for semi-final

Burger Odendaal
Burger Odendaal dives over the line to score against Saracens [Rex Features]

Asked about his feelings of lingering insecurity about his value to the squad, he said: "I think it's not a bad thing. We've got very strong competition in the group and that will just bring out the best in me.

"I don't want to let any of the boys down and that's a focus or mindset that helps me be on the top of my game."

Odendaal described his first-half try against Saracens as a "surreal moment" which will live in his memory for many years - and he would love to add one or two more against Bath to help Saints bring home the trophy.

"I was lucky to get the nod. I didn't know how team selection was going to go," he said.

"It was an awesome victory for us against Sarries. We knew it was going to be a tough one but we said if we put the focus on us and put our rugby on the pitch, we'll get the result in the end. I am super-stoked for the final this weekend."

He added: "This is going to be massive for me. I've never played in a stadium that big and it's already sold out, so it's definitely going to be the biggest crowd I've played before."