Kieran Hardy says that Wales are “ready for everything” as they prepare to tackle world champions South Africa in a three-Test series.
It is mission improbable for Wales, with two of those games – in Pretoria and Bloemfontein – at altitude, while they have never beaten the Springboks on South African soil.
Hardy and company also travel on the back of a shock home defeat against Guinness Six Nations opponents Italy that consigned them to a fifth-placed finish in this season’s tournament.
Compounding matters, Wales are without a number of injured players, including British and Irish Lions quartet Justin Tipuric, Ross Moriarty, Ken Owens and Leigh Halfpenny.
“We are under no illusions that it is going to be a very difficult task, particularly with the altitude and being away from home,” said Scarlets scrum-half Hardy, who will battle for the Wales number nine shirt alongside Tomos Williams and Gareth Davies.
“But we are ready for everything. We’ve had a good couple of weeks of preparation and we are going out there to try and win a Test series.
“I don’t think you can ever write a team off, particularly with the characters and experience we have in this squad.
“Obviously, we know that some of the performances in the Six Nations didn’t go our way, but we know we are a better team than that.
“It is a great challenge for us, playing against the best team in the world. Those are the challenges you want to be a part of.
“I think we understand the task in front of us and how difficult it is going to be out there, but for us it’s just about doing everything we can between now and then, making sure we are ready for every Test match.”
Hardy made three appearances off the bench during the Six Nations, scoring a try against England, and he has adapted well to Test rugby since making his debut less than two years ago.
And while Williams is favourite to start the first Test at Loftus Versfeld on July 2, competition remains fierce among Wales’ three travelling scrum-halves ahead of next year’s World Cup.
“It is a big battle,” Hardy added. “We are pretty lucky with the quality of nines we have in Wales.
“Any one of us could play on any given day, depending on what needs to be done.
“I don’t know what the pecking order is moving forward, but all I am trying to do is give everything in training to show that I am ready to play.
“The quality of nines is high, and if you spoke to any one of us, we would all back ourselves to play.
“Obviously, with the World Cup coming around, someone needs to nail down the shirt.
“I am doing everything in my ability to take that shirt and make sure I can carry it through until then.
“There is a lot of work to be done in the meantime, but hopefully a couple of good performances in South Africa, if I get the opportunity, wouldn’t do me any harm.”