South Africa v Wales: Dan Lydiate hopes to feel buzz of victory again in Cape Town
|Venue: DHL Stadium, Cape Town Date: Saturday, 16 July Kick-off: 16:05 BST|
|Coverage: Live radio commentary on BBC Radio Wales Extra – available via BBC Sounds, 882 MW and BBC Sport Online, Radio Cymru plus live text and match report on the BBC Sport website|
If anybody can capture the agony and ecstasy of international rugby, it is Wales flanker Dan Lydiate.
Seeing the Ospreys back row return to the international stage this summer and chopping down South African giants with his trademark tackling technique has been a sight to behold.
Lydiate’s return road has been long. He had battled back to the international stage by being picked in the Six Nations against Ireland in February 2021.
But that comeback was ruined as he suffered a serious knee injury early in the game which would rule him out for a year.
Yet at 34, Lydiate again fought his way back onto the international stage for the trip to South Africa.
It is a tour made for him, and he made a telling impression on the second Test with 18 tackles.
His contribution helped set up victory – and brought back a feeling that Lydiate says he last experienced 10 years ago.
That was when he helped Wales to the 2012 Grand Slam with victory over France and was named Six Nations player of the tournament.
“There has been 10 years since but it just shows you how far apart those massive highs you can get in rugby [can be],” said Lydiate.
“It is something you always cherish. If you could bottle that feeling and sell it you would not have to work again.
“It is hard to put into words until you are in that moment. It is not just that moment in time, it’s what you have worked for as a kid, with all those sessions you have done that nobody has seen.
“It’s every ounce of your being that you have put into your career and an instant reward as that final whistle goes.
“I guess it is like a drug, although I have never done drugs before.
“You can’t compare it to anything else. I am passionate about farming but it’s completely different.
“The only other thing you get that much emotion out of is family with your kids and your wife and things like that.
“It is difficult to compare, apples and pears, but in the same breath it’s all intertwined because they sacrifice a lot for what you do as well.”
Lydiate has seen the highs and lows and shared that with fellow Ospreys players George North and Dewi Lake after the trio spent a lot of time in the self-styled ‘rehab club’.
They have all contributed for Wales in the two Tests in South Africa. Lake scored a try in the first, while North will become Wales most-capped back in his 105th international for his country in Cape Town this weekend.
A matter of months ago they were rehabilitating together from long-term injuries.
“It was nice on the weekend because we made sure we had a picture after the game because there were times when we were on crutches going into work in the mornings,” said Lydiate.
“It was a good vibe because we pushed each other, especially in the gym where we are all a similar strength, so there was a bit of competition.
“We worked hard during those times when we were injured but enjoyed each other’s company, which was perhaps more important to keep each other going.
“Having banter and fun along the way is half the battle because a knee injury is a long process.
“It can get boring and tedious because you have to do the same thing every day to build things back up.
“Dewi was the first out of our trio to get back on the field and was called up to the Six Nations. That spurred us on to try and get back for Ospreys and here we are now.
“It’s been a tough road, I am not going to sugar coat it. It is not just the boys, it’s the medical and strength and conditioning staff at Ospreys.
“They deserve massive credit because they are a big part of getting us back to where we are now.
“You have to be a special type of person to do that role because when the boys are feeling a bit low, they need to bring the energy as well.
“We all have our off days so that’s when we needed each other.”
No pain, no gain
Lydiate admits the Tests in Pretoria and Bloemfontein have taken their toll.
“It does hurt, I am not going to lie,” said Lydiate.
“That is what I have been picked for for years, to try and be physical. It does take it out of you but if that’s what you are picked to do, that’s what I have to do.
“It’s all worth it. I have been sore for a few days after that Test last weekend but if we had lost, I would have been a lot more sore.”
Lydiate will put himself through the pain barrier again in order to try and become part of an historic series-winning side in South Africa with victory in the third Test in Cape Town.
“I am probably going to have to go a lot harder again this weekend because they will be seething after that loss,” he added.
“They have got a lot of pressure with it being in their own backyard so it will be tougher again.”
You sense Lydiate would not have it any other way.