Eleven months on from a World Cup-ending injury, there is light at the end of the tunnel for Ellis Jenkins and the Cardiff Blues captain is targeting a return to action during the festive season.
The open-side flanker had produced a stunning man-of-the-match performance in the 20-11 victory over South Africa last autumn
But in what should have been an occasion to saviour, he was cruelly struck down by a significant knee injury in the dying moment of the Principality Stadium clash.
The injury ended any hopes of Jenkins making the global showpiece in Japan and while it was tough to stomach in the months that followed, the 26-year-old is now focused on his return.
“Obviously, I was gutted I couldn’t make the World Cup,” said Jenkins as he took part in WalesOnline’s Facebook Live show at Cardiff Arms Park.
“But my rehab is going pretty well. I’m currently working with the physios on getting back running and we’re trying to increase the pace each week. I have just started a little bit of changing direction to test the knee.
“Once I can do all of that it’s about backing it up and doing it one, two, three days in a row and building that volume up so I can get through a training week. I’m hoping, all being well to be back around Christmas time, give or take a couple of weeks. I would like to play some part in the derbies if possible.”
Jenkins could be forgiven for avoiding the World Cup fever sweeping the nation, after all he was a shoo-in to be included if he were fit.
Ironically Sunday’s semi-final opponents are the Springboks and despite being on the sidelines, Jenkins has loved watching Wales succeed on the world stage.
He continued: “It’s 11 months today (Thursday) that I have been out of the game so I’m just focused on getting back playing and seeing where I am physically, how my knee copes with the training and playing demands and hopefully I can get back to the top level and the level of performance I want to be at.
“It's been great to watch. The Six Nations was brilliant for me – I know how hard the boys have worked for the last two years leading up to the World Cup and to see the success they had in the Sis Nations and to make it this far in a World Cup is great.
“Obviously, it’s a little bit bittersweet and I wish I was there but ultimately it wasn’t meant to be. I’m a massive fan of Welsh rugby and some of my best mates are out there so I’m cheering as much as everyone else.”
And who better to ask how you beat the ‘Boks than the man that starred against them 11 months ago?
Jenkins expects a hugely physical challenge and while Wales have been bruised by a succession of crushing injuries, he is confident they still have the strength in depth to prevail and expects the kicking battle to be decisive.
He added: “We have spoken a lot in the last 18 months about how we have built a lot of strength in depth, there’s still a couple of positions where the starting player is very, very important. But we have had so many injuries so far and we are still in a semi-final and still looking competitive going into it.
“Gats is always big on being fit, working hard in training and he always talks a lot about players undergoing a lot of conditioning. We keep the ball on the pitch as much as possible.
“South Africa are big and physical and more we can move them around the better. I don’t think that will change too much, we will be looking to keep the ball in play and keep that ball in play time as high as possible.
“South Africa have a very dangerous back three so the defensive line will be tested but it’s something that has been rep’d over and over again for many years.
“We won’t want to give penalties away to give them easy field position. In a semi-final it will come down to a couple of points, so you don’t want to go three, six, nine points behind because it is difficult to come back from that.”
The Cardiff Blues clubhouse will be open from 8am on Sunday with breakfast rolls available for £2.50 and buy one get one free on bottles of Heineken.