The Lions have yet to win a Vodacom United Rugby Championship match this year, but Cardiff boss Dai Young is not letting his team get complacent ahead of the clash at Ellis Park on Sunday.
Cardiff will take on the Lions in Johannesburg on Sunday afternoon as part of the first round of north vs south fixtures to be held in South Africa.
The match was originally scheduled to take place in November, but was among the home games against the European franchises postponed due to travel restrictions on South Africa.
After experiencing difficulties with getting back home to Wales, Cardiff director of rugby Young was outspoken about the team’s concerns with going back to South Africa, saying at the time in December that they would “need convincing”.
However, during a virtual media conference on Thursday, Young, speaking from Cardiff’s base in Cape Town, said that they settled in nicely.
“To be honest, it was also very pleasant last time, though it didn’t end very well,” Young said. “As I said at the time, you couldn’t ask much more from the South African hospitality. They have been fantastic. They couldn’t do enough for us. We are in a fantastic hotel and have access to very good training facilities. We have had a real warm welcome so we are pleased to be here.”
The South African teams have needed a few games to find their footing and haven’t had the best results on tour, but the Sharks, Stormers and Vodacom Bulls are all in contention to finish in the top eight and qualify for the playoffs.
Young said he is expecting a very different challenge when playing against these teams on their home turf.
“Speaking to the teams we were involved with earlier in the season, they were bitterly disappointed they didn’t hit the ground running when they visited us. They have got better with every game. You can see them coming back with a real determination. We are under no illusion of what we are going to get.
“There has been so much work to get the teams in this league and they want to make a real mark. We will have to be at our best to get anywhere near these teams. We are looking forward to it. We are very respectful of these teams, we know their strengths.”
While the Lions, by contrast, have struggled and are slightly cut adrift in 14th place, Young said he is wary of getting caught in an arm-wrestle with their pack.
“We are expecting a real determined team to start climbing up the log. I think they are a lot better than their results would show to date. I think they have a very strong scrum with a heavy front five. We certainly don’t want to get into an arm-wrestle with them. If that happens, it will be a difficult game for us.
“They have backs to attack and do throw the ball around, playing attacking rugby. If things stick for them, they can score a lot of points.”
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