Dan Biggar says Wales have set their standard following a “hugely-positive” tour of South Africa.
Wales soared way above expectations against the world champion Springboks, claiming a first win against them on South African soil.
Although Biggar and company lost a gripping Test series 2-1, they triumphed in Bloemfontein and were only beaten by Damian Willemse’s penalty with the final kick of a magnificent first Test seven days earlier.
While South Africa bossed the third encounter and claimed a 30-14 victory, Wales can reflect with considerable satisfaction on a trip that came just four months after they lost at home to Italy and finished fifth in the Six Nations Championship.
It leaves them in a strong position ahead of next year’s World Cup, and sets up a mouth-watering autumn series when New Zealand, Australia, Argentina and Georgia visit Cardiff.
“To get a win over here is a huge tick,” Wales captain Biggar said.
“Overall, it has been a hugely-positive tour. From where we came from in the Six Nations, I don’t think anybody could have predicted how it went.
“We fell a little bit short (in the third Test) after a long season, but we have said this is the standard we need to get to now, not the Six Nations, where we fell off a little bit.
“We weren’t at the races for the first 15 minutes – South Africa started really strongly. Twelve months ago, we could have conceded three or four times, but the boys dug deep and we managed to get it back to 10-8.
“It showed a huge amount of character, and we are a resolute bunch. It will stand us in brilliant stead, and it has been a really positive campaign overall.
“When we look back on the tour, I think we will have some fond memories.”
Wales head coach Wayne Pivac, who came under fierce criticism following the Six Nations, oversaw an impressive return to form.
He was without the services of four injured British and Irish Lions in Leigh Halfpenny, Ken Owens, Justin Tipuric and Ross Moriarty, while prop Tomas Francis and wing Alex Cuthbert were hurt on tour and flew home early, which illustrated Wales’ admirable resolve.
Pivac said: “The tour itself has been fantastic, it was the first time we have toured together (since Pivac took charge in late 2019) because of Covid.
“It has been really great, and the whole group – management and players – has pulled together really well.
“I think it just shows the environment that has been created. The players enjoy coming to work, enjoy rolling their sleeves up and enjoy each other’s company.
“That is important, because ultimately you go through some dark patches in Test matches and you have only got the bloke beside you to help you out. The boys have done that time and time again on this tour.”
Pivac, meanwhile, underlined Alun Wyn Jones’ continued value to the squad after he extended his world record of Test match appearances to 165 with three outings off the replacements’ bench against South Africa.
Second-row talisman Jones will be 38, nine days after Wales’ World Cup opener against Fiji in Bordeaux.
Asked if he was in his World Cup plans, Pivac said: “Yes, I think he answered that with his performance.
“He is keen to continue while he is deemed to be good enough. We clearly deem him good enough.”