Six Nations Rugby | Reffell recalls “special” debut after impressing in Pretoria

A Premiership winner with Leicester Tigers, Reffell has been on an upward trajectory for some time, making his Tigers debut aged just 18 five years ago.

Captain of both Wales U18 and U20, he was finally rewarded with his maiden Test cap against the Springboks in one of rugby’s real cauldrons.

He ended up finishing on the losing side after a last gasp penalty from Damian Willemse broke Welsh hearts as the World Champions won the first of three Tests 32-29.

And while Reffell, 23, was obviously disappointed he could not end his debut on the winning side, it is not an experience he is likely to forget in a hurry.

He said: “It was an incredible experience, it was a disappointing result but the whole build-up to the game was exciting, running out and singing the anthem for the first time.

“The atmosphere was incredible.

“Overall, the experience was amazing and something I’ll never forget. The result didn’t go our way but there are plenty of things we can look at going forward.

“I haven’t played in many places better than that. That was their first game back in front of a crowd so they came out in force.

“They were incredible and I could hear them all the way through the game – it was a special memory.”

Wales first toured South Africa in 1964, and after 11 attempts are still yet to record a victory, with the three-point defeat on Saturday the closest they’ve come other than the 31-30 defeat at Newlands the last time they visited the Rainbow nation in 2014.

But Reffell insists the squad are not thinking of the result in a positive manner, despite the performance being a clear improvement from their 22-21 defeat to Italy in Cardiff in Round 5 of the Guinness Six Nations.

“I’ve got mixed feelings because it’s a game we could have won, even with the yellow cards,” he said.

“It goes to show that discipline is key, especially the way they play with the rolling maul – it’s hard to stop.”

And as has become the norm when asking a debutant who’s made the step up to the Test arena, Reffell vouched for the intensity of the game against the Springboks and their Bomb Squad.

He added: “It’s kind of similar in ways but it’s a lot more intense.

“You have to be on your mettle for the whole game and concentration and all that sort of stuff that goes along with it.

“Then the physicality as well. They’ve got some big boys and it’s all about getting your tackle height right and consistently low.”

Wales face South Africa in the second Test at Free State Stadium in Bloemfontein on Saturday.

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