The accolades keep on stacking up for Wales and Ospreys lock Alun-Wyn Jones.
Still only 23, he captained Wales for the first time in the 2009 RBS Six Nations and led the British & Irish Lions for 14 minutes against the Golden Lions when Brian O’Driscoll and Phil Vickery had departed.
But he gets another big honour in Durban on Wednesday night when he gets his first chance to pack down alongside Paul O’Connell. As both men are renowned middle of the line jumpers, it might seem a strange mix, but Ian McGeechan is banking on his gamble reaping rich dividends.
“I’ve played against Paul a lot with Ospreys and Wales for the past three years and I’m relishing the opportunity of seeing him from the other side,” said Jones.
“It is an exciting prospect playing alongside him and I’ve a lot admiration for him. I‘m simply looking forward to forging a strong partnership with him on Wednesday.
“I’ve jumped at four, five and six for the Ospreys and there are only subtle differences. It is not a big difference and there are a lot of similarities.
"It is easier to move between front and middle line jumper than it would be between outside half and centre.”
O’Connell will stay in his middle of the line position against the Sharks and will be packing down with his third different lock on tour – Simon Shaw, Donnacha O’Callaghan and now Jones.
But he isn’t worried about another switch and is also looking forward to playing with a new partnmer.
“Alun-Wyn is a really clever player and I can’t believe he is still only 23. I’ve admired him for some time,” said O’Connell.
Even if O’Connell doesn’t believe he is a dead cert to play in the first Test, the reality for the rest of the locks in the tour party is that they are playing for one position that’s why Jones knows he has been handed a gilt edged opportunity in Durban.
“The Test is in the back of your mind. The next game could determine whether or not you are there and there abouts,” he said.
“The pressure is starting to stack up. I know I’ve got to perform now – it’s time to put up or shut up.”