DRAGONS flanker Aaron Wainwright has Springboks in his sights – and a late charge for the World Cup.

This time last year the 20-year-old from Bassaleg had just finished the WRU National Championship season with Cardiff Met. Now he is in Washington trying to earn a first cap from Wales boss Warren Gatland in Saturday's Test against South Africa.

Wainwright made his Dragons debut in October and became a firm fixture in the back row, featuring in 25 of 26 games and catching the eye with his work rate and dynamic carrying.

He received a belated call-up to the tour when Cardiff Blues flanker Josh Navidi suffered a shoulder injury in the Challenge Cup final and his hopes of featuring prominently were boosted further when Aaron Shingler limped out of the Scarlets' Guinness PRO14 final, Josh Turnbull joining the party as an even later replacement.

Gatland has pledged to give all of his party action in the three-Test tour and in the first team meeting the head coach hammered home that everybody has a chance of making his squad for next year's World Cup.

"My eyes lit up! Hopefully if I do get on I can make an impression and do what I have been doing for most of the season," said Wainwright, who had to cancel a holiday in Marbella.

"If I do play well then hopefully I do get a chance of going next year, but we will have to wait and see for that.

"There are a lot of back row names left out but if I work hard and make an impression then my name will get thrown around."

Wainwright was watching television on his sofa when an evening phone call from Wales team manager Alan Phillips revealed his call-up and the following day he was training at the Vale Resort.

The back row forward has never played for his country at any level, so turned up in his Dragons kit. Now he is set to wear the three feathers, the perfect ending to a remarkable 2017/18.

"I don't think my season could have been any better but I have had quite a bit of luck as well with the injuries giving me chances to play," said Wainwright, who put his sport and exercise science degree at Cardiff Met on hold.

"I think that I have taken my chance well with the Dragons and hopefully if I get a chance to play on tour I can do the same and make an impression.

"I've just tried to work hard in training to get better every day, and there are things that I am picking up already with Wales that has really helped me so far."

The learning curve has been steep for Wainwright, whose exploits won the award as the Dragons' young player of the year.

"I've learnt to step up in training – don't be nervous or scared to make yourself known, have a presence about yourself," he said. "At first I was cautious to get involved but since I've started playing I have been more confidence and comfortable."

Wainwright made an impression on his more experienced Dragons teammates by flying into them in Ystrad Mynach and that confrontational approach will be needed against the imposing Boks and Pumas.

"We are going to have to be really physical against both teams and that's something we have been working hard on, how we are going to defend against big packs and not let them have any time on the ball," he said.

"If I can get some time on the pitch and try and knock some of them back then I would be more than happy."

Wales name their team at 4pm on Wednesday.