South Africa number nine Faf De Klerk has been an integral part of the Springboks’ Rugby World Cup winning squad, and is widely considered to be one of the best players in the game. Scarlets star Hardy is one of three scrum-halves in the Wales squad to tour the Rainbow Nation, and is relishing the challenge.
But he knows he has a lot of competition for the number nine shirt from his Scarlets teammate Gareth Davies, and Cardiff Rugby man Tomos Williams. “He runs the game for South Africa and we’ll have to be aware of him and his kicking game,” said the 26-year-old.
“The way he dictates the game is a different challenge but I think Faf de Klerk is one of the best nines in the world and it would be great to play against him. It’s a really big opportunity.
“The quality of nines is high but if you spoke to any one of us, we’d all back ourselves to play. It’s difficult in that regard but obviously with the World Cup coming around, someone needs to nail down the shirt.
“I’m doing everything in my ability to take that shirt and make sure I can carry it through until then. There’s 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.”
Wales head coach Wayne Pivac yesterday described this three-test tour of South Africa as the “ultimate” rugby challenge. Hardy concurs but is confident Wales can give a good account of themselves against the worlds number one ranked side.
“It’s a great challenge for us, playing against the best team in the world,” he said. “Those are the challenges you want to be a part of.
“We’ve prepared really well in the last couple of weeks. We had a little game in house last week, 15 on 15, which was really good for us.
“We’re going there with the mindset that we can win every game. That will always be our aim.
“The experience we have in the squad, the players who have played in big Test matches previously… it’s great to lean on them. You learn once you’ve been in the environment as well and we’re going to need all that experience.
“We’re going to need the younger boys to really step up out there. We’re under no illusions that it’s going to be a very difficult task, particularly with the altitude and being away from home.
“But we’re ready for everything. We’ve had a good couple of weeks of preparation and we’re going out there to try and win a Test series.”