Dillon Lewis admits Saturday’s opening Test match against South Africa was amongst the toughest yet enjoyable experiences he’s had on the international stage to date.
Handed the number three jersey to take on the world champions, the Cardiff tighthead completed 79 minutes in the infamous Highveld altitude, having swiftly returned to the field following an injury to replacement Tomas Francis.
The Blue and Blacks academy product drew plaudits for his performance in Pretoria, however the prop does not expect the task to get any easier over the next couple of weeks, as Wales hunt a first ever win in South Africa.
“I didn’t have much time to think about it to be honest. It wasn’t nice seeing Franny down the way that he was. It was quite a nasty one, so I was hoping that he was okay,” recalled Lewis.
“I remember Nugget [Martyn Williams, team manager] telling me to get back on. You don’t really prep for those situations, they just happen.
"It was definitely a test on the lungs and the legs. They’re big men as well so it’s not just the running around that you have to worry about, it’s also trying to stop them running over you.
“It was a tough Test but an enjoyable one, probably one of my most enjoyable Test matches for Wales.
“The Springboks were probably tougher, especially up front. There’s a lot more to it than just running around, you know exactly where they are coming. There is the set piece aspect.
“I’d like to think we took a bit to South Africa. We expected it to go there [to the gutter] and you always do when you play against them. It was physical, it was tough and we went to some dark places at times, especially around the 70th minute when I’m blowing out of my a**e but it’s always like that against them.
“I expect it to get a lot tougher over the next two Tests as well. It’s been a while since both teams have played together, so it’s only going to get better, more physical, faster. I expect it to get darker on Saturday.
“It was probably a bit of a win-win game for me going into it, to be honest. Everybody wrote me off at scrum time so if it didn’t go well then it was nothing people didn’t already know but if it did go well then it’s something for me to take some confidence from.
"I’m probably giving people reasons to doubt me at times and that’s my own inconsistency that I have to try and iron out. I tend not to listen too much to external factors. If the coach is picking me then I must be doing something right.”
Wales forwards coach and former Cardiff captain Jonathan Humphreys were amongst those who praised Lewis for his performance.
He added: ”Dillon has been fantastic for us, he has played through a lot of pain.
”He does not get enough credit, for me. He has been excellent in this environment and it's a hell of an ask to do what he did at the weekend but he is ready to go again and he is going to have to be."