Rhys Carré has called on Cardiff to seize the opportunity against Cell C Sharks in the United Rugby Championship on Saturday (7.35pm).
The Blue and Blacks host the Sharks at the Arms Park just a week after fellow South African newcomers Vodacom Bulls flexed their muscle with a powerful second-half comeback.
The 29-19 defeat was a disappointing result for Cardiff and while the Sharks will present a similarly physically formidable challenge, Carré believes it is one that should be grasped with both hands.
He said: “Coming up against these South African teams, they are renowned for being big blokes and there’s a couple of tweaks we need to make in defence.
“They provide a different challenge. It’s a hurdle we have to overcome but we can adapt, overcome and get better. That was the first game against one of the new teams and we have another chance on Saturday to rectify that this weekend.
“It’s a game of rugby and if you take someone’s legs they will fall. It just highlights that if you give them a weak shoulder or arm tackle, they will break through. We have to get bodies in front and aim for the legs.
“We building. The first game against Connacht was a good result for us. We played well as a team and got the season going but the last two games it’s been disappointing.
“There are positives to take out of it. The first half against the Bulls on the weekend was a positive and as a team we’re building. Yes, there will be mistakes and parts of the game that don’t go our way but as a whole we are going in the right direction.
“Saturday is a massive opportunity for us as a team to go out there and show everyone what we are capable of. We were all disappointed with ourselves in the second half and we have a point to prove on Saturday.”
Carré, who was today named in Wayne Pivac’s autumn international squad, continues to battle with Corey Domachowski for the loosehead birth at Cardiff Arms Park and it is that competition plus words of wisdom from established scrummagers is driving him on.
It has been a tumultuous 18 months for the 23-year-old, who burst on the scene little over two years ago and was rewarded with a place at the 2019 Rugby World Cup.
A short-lived switch to Saracens followed before he was released due to the salary cap scandal, the Covid-19 pandemic hit and a season was played behind closed doors.
But Carré is back settled in Cardiff, believes life is returning to relative normality and is reaping the rewards of a full pre-season after missing out on a place in the Wales summer squad.
He continued: “I’ve been around the block really from the beginning of my career but I’m settled here now. Having a full pre-season has really helped me. We are in week 14 or 15 now of being around the boys every week, our shape becomes second nature to you rather than being here, there and everywhere. I am really happy to be playing for Cardiff at the moment and hopefully I can keep it going.
“I tried to keep fit during the few weeks off at the end of last season and hit the ground running. The first session we did was hill sprints up Castle Coch and that wasn’t pretty but Trystan (Bevan) picked one of his old favourites. Pre-season is never fun, it’s never easy. You just work hard and get yourself in the best shape you can for the season.
“It was a massive opportunity and achievement to do what I did two years ago (Rugby World Cup) and it gives me confidence if things aren’t going my way. I can look back and look at the games and know I can do it. I have been there in these stressful environments where everything matters.
“It was a lot to take in. I went from a couple of games on the bench for Cardiff to being thrown in the deep end at World Cup camp. It all went crazy from there.
“It was a lot to take in but it sort of all fell into place. Everything was one after another and it didn’t seem forced. It’s experience in the bank now and I have that to look back on and have friends I can talk to and relate to - it’s always good to have contacts elsewhere.”
That summer set-back provided an opportunity to refocus and recharge the batteries following what had been a roller coaster two years and the increased focus on fitness, to play the fast-paced game Dai Young wants, has been particularly beneficial for the giant loosehead.
He said: “You always hope you are going to be named in that squad, like every other player in Wales, that’s a given. I brushed that disappointment off, I enjoyed the time off and then hit the ground running back in here for pre-season.
“I benefitted from that and I’m playing well for Cardiff because I have been here for 10-12 weeks in the system, with the boys, getting used to new coaches and a new style of play. I have benefitted from being here for a longer period of time and getting used to that.
“At this stage of my career I just need consistency of performance, I can’t really strive for anything further in the long run unless I can hammer home the short term.
“For me at the moment, this 5-6 game block has been my priority, trying to get as many minutes as I can and then we have a break. After that I can reassess, sit down with the coaches and go over what went well and what I could have done better. I wouldn’t say I have any long term goals at the moment.
“Me and Corey get on well in training. There’s no beef between us, some sessions get heated when it comes to scrum time and stuff like that, you’re always trying to get one over each other to get that starting jersey but that’s good. Any competition in training is good to push standards on and off the pitch.
"Any young prop will say scrummaging is the number one priority. I am always learning, speaking to experienced boys here, boys that have retired and working har with Duane (Goodfield). Scrummaging is key and if you can become a dominant scrummager then everything else falls into place.”