Josh Navidi is ready for Test match levels of intensity as British & Irish Lions go head-to-head with a fully-loaded Springboks A side on Wednesday.
Following convincing victories over Japan, Sigma Lions and and C Cell Sharks, preparations for the three-game series against South Africa have stepped up as Warren Gatland’s men travel to Cape Town, where they will take on a strong Springboks A outfit on Wednesday.
However, Rassie Erasmus has named a side containing a number of the 2019 Rugby World Cup winning squad - including Cheslin Kolbe, Faf de Klerk, Lukhanyo Am, Eben Etzebeth and World Player of the Year, Pieter-Steph du Toit - leading many to suggest Wednesday’s clash will be an unofficial fourth Test in the series.
With only 11 days until the first Test, Navidi, who is named in the starting line-up alongside Cardiff team-mate Josh Adams, insists the squad are in a good place ahead of their final warm-up matches as he looks to make the most of his Lions experience.
“I haven’t seen the team, but I’ve heard they’ve gone fully loaded. But we’ll take it as another Test and get on with it,” said the back row star.
“They’ll go pretty strong and they’ll want to get the game-time in but all we can do is prepare as we have been. It should be a good game on Wednesday.
“The tour schedule has been out and we were meant to play Springboks A on Wednesday but will probably face their main side and then Stormers on Saturday.
“It would be nice to get a run out against Stormers. I’m sure their boys will be hyped for the game as well.
“As forwards, we’re good and we’re fresh. We’ve had a lot of changes in each game and it’s good to have strength in numbers.
“There’s a new pack out this week and we’re looking forward to it on Wednesday.
“It shows in the back row the quality that’s there and it’s nice to play with different boys and get a feel for boys you’ve always played against.
“It’s really enjoyable and it’s always going to be a close call [for Test selection] with everyone.
“But I’m just enjoying my time out here and taking every moment in.”
Navidi was a late call-up to Gatland’s squad, as he was called into camp alongside Wales team-mate Adam Beard following injuries to Alun Wyn Jones and Justin Tipuric.
However, head coach Gatland has hinted that tour captain Jones could re-join the squad if he comes through a fitness test this week.
Navidi would welcome the talismanic lock back, as he recalls his whirlwind call-up following the tour opener against Japan.
The Cardiff academy product explained: “[Jones] is a big personality both on and off the field. If there’s anyone who can get back out here quickly, it’s him.
“So fingers crossed he does all the protocols and hopefully he can get himself out here.
“I’m sure he’ll recover well and hopefully he’s strong and fit if he comes back out here.
“On the pitch, as a pack leader, he’s one that leads from the front. He does talk a lot but also leads from the front.
“I obviously sent him [Tipuric] a message when I had the phone call and heard about his injury.
“We were lucky enough to catch up with both of them when we landed off the plane in Edinburgh and it was nice to see the two of them.
“For them boys, it was bitterly disappointing to watch the game and seeing them go off. I didn’t think too much of Tips, I thought it was just a HIA or something, but Alun Wyn never comes off so I was a bit worried on that case.
“With the boys, it’s hard to see two Wales boys coming off and you’re swapping over. It’s hard to take for them boys but it was nice to see them before coming into camp.
“It was a crazy 48 hours from getting the phone call, getting my bags packed and ending up down in Exeter to fly up to Edinburgh and straight out to South Africa that night.
“Until I laid in my bed in South Africa, that’s when it hit home.
“I was doing a bit of work on my car, had showered and got a text from Alan Phillips asking me to ring him as soon as possible.
“I kind of knew what was coming but wasn’t 100 per cent, so I rang him back. I went straight next door to tell my parents and girlfriend and everything went fast and thick from then.”