Dai Young believes Cardiff can take plenty of confidence from a successful BKT United Rugby Championship trip to South Africa.
The Blue and Blacks ended their two-week tour of the Rainbow Nation with a heavy defeat to a fully-loaded Vodacom Bulls side who rampaged at altitude.
They made five changes for the trip to Pretoria, while the Bulls recalled their Springbok contingent and despite a bright start, the power of Jake White’s side proved the difference.
Cardiff had led as half-time approached but the Bulls struck either side of the break to give the game a different complexion and they never looked back.
The scoreboard did not reflect the effort from a youthful Cardiff side but Young believes there were a huge amount of positives to take from Loftus Versfeld and combined with last week’s thrilling 35-0 victory over Cell C Sharks - Wales’ first URC triumph in South Africa - it was a fruitful trip.
He said: “When we saw the team sheet ahead of the game, we knew it was going to be a tough mission obviously with the quality they’ve got in their team, not only their run on but also their bench.
“For 38 minutes we were really competitive and we were in the game but that score just before half-time and then the score after half-time really killed the game for us.
“Once they got two score in front there was only going to be one winner really and it was always going to be a case of us sticking in there and giving it a shot for the last 15 to 20 minutes.
“The threat was always going to be us running out of juice. We had a lot of young boys out there who hadn’t played a lot of rugby or certainly not against the quality we faced tonight so the scoreboard got away from us but we can take a lot of positives.
“A lot of young boys played against some real quality opposition. The players certainly emptied their tank, not one player came off with anything left and you can’t ask much more than that.
“There was always going to be a draining factor to that, they are a real quality team, playing some good rugby and they have a real good balance between strength, power and size up front with some real pace behind.
“We had a good win last week and this assignment was always going to be a bit tougher because the Bulls are in a better place than the Sharks at this moment in time.
“We certainly didn’t come into the game under the radar after winning last week - it put the Bulls on red alert and we knew that we would be in for a bit of an onslaught for the first 25 minutes, which I thought we handled pretty well.
“We never like losing and the scoreboard got away from us but some of our younger players would have taken a lot out of that and a lot of confidence because you not going to play against a team like that every week.
“We’ve had a successful tour, we’re going back with five points, we’ve blooded a lot of youngsters against one of the best teams in Europe and they are only going to learn and benefit from that.”
This year’s trip to South Africa was a stark contrast to last season when the Blue and Blacks got stuck in Cape Town following the emergence of Omicron and then spent weeks in quarantine.
Then when they returned to fulfil their two fixtures they fell to consecutive defeats and left empty-handed.
To spend two weeks together in Durban and Pretoria, and return to Cardiff with five points ahead of Europe and the festive derbies is something to build upon.
Young added “It’s been fantastic. We can’t speak highly enough of the hospitality in South Africa, it has been first class. The hotels have been top drawer, all the training facilities have been top drawer and playing at two iconic stadiums has been a massive thrill or some of our young players and some of our more experience as well.
“It’s given us a but of confidence, the Bulls were a bit too much for us tonight but we had a good win last week.
“Two weeks away together always helps with the bonding of the squad and the players have been first class. They emptied the tank.
“Some performances last year, when the scoreboard got away from us there was questioning whether we had the heart and desire to stick in there but that wasn’t the case tonight. We were still fighting and giving it everything we had right until the end.”