Danny Wilson admits facing South African teams away from home in the Guinness PRO14 will present a massive challenge.
It was confirmed yesterday that the Toyota Cheetahs and Southern Kings would join the newly expanded Championship, which is now split into two conferences.
Cardiff Blues have been drawn in Conference A with the Cheetahs, who they will play home AND away, while they will face the Southern Kings home OR away.
The Blues head coach is excited about the prospect and is looking forward to the formidable challenge that lies ahead.
Wilson said: “It’s exciting and a little bit unknown. The challenge of going to South Africa, the travel and everything that comes with it, to go and win the game is a big one.
“It will make for some interesting games and hopefully bring a crowd to see South African teams at Cardiff Arms Park.
“We will start to build a bank of knowledge of the two South African teams in terms of what’s gone before and the style they play. But the detail will be done two weeks out from the game, with the coaches and analysists, and then the players in the early part of the week before.”
Wales’ Capital Region are now in week three of their pre-season programme and Wilson is pleased with the progress being made.
Understandably it is a period of less pressure for the coaching team, with conditioning taking precedent.
Wilson has been busy planning for the season ahead but the onus is also on the players to set the targets and standards for the 2017-18 campaign.
He continued: “It’s a more relaxed period for the coaches. There’s no selection and there aren’t disappointed players so you have a chance to do more planning on certain elements over the season with conditioning a priority but a lot of skills work as well.
“As a group of players and coaches we will sit down and go through our goals in terms of the process and our standards.
“If you put your processes and standards together for a long period of the season then results and league position takes care of themselves.
“Gone are the days when you have a coaching team that dictates everything. I believe in a shared leadership model.
“When you have the likes of Gethin Jenkins, Sam Warburton, Gareth Anscombe, Lloyd Williams and Ellis Jenkins, there’s a lot of knowledge in the room and a lot of leadership that contributes to the game-plan and the way we live our lives as professionals.”
Qualifying for the European Champions Cup has been a major target for the Blues in the last two years and they have fallen agonisingly short on both occasions.
However there has been steady improvement and Wilson is determined for that to continue, while maintaining his commitment to the Blues’ fast and exciting brand of rugby.
He added: “Trying to qualify for the European Champions Cup has been a target and we finished seventh in my first year and seventh in year two, five points off sixth place – we are almost reaching that goal.
“We had to take ourselves from tenth a couple of years ago into the top six where there’s some very good competition. If you can bridge that gap, then you can start looking at the top four and so on.
“You have to take it step by step and build - we picked up more wins last season than the one before but we need to improve on the patches of the year where our form dipped and when we had a few injury problems which we didn’t weather particularly well.
“We’re playing the rugby we wanted to play. When I came here It was very obvious the tradition and the passion to play in that way.
“This group of players comes alive when they attack. We have scored some fantastic tries and have been at the top of the table in terms of tries and points scored. We need to improve our defensive mind-set.”
Season Memberships for the 2017-18 campaign are available now and include all regular Guinness PRO12, European Challenge Cup and Anglo-Welsh Cup matches. Starting at just £190 for adults, £79 for students and £20 for all children you can book your place at Cardiff Arms Park today!