Cardiff Blues were dealt an early blow on their two-week South African tour, as their travel plans from Heathrow were delayed by over 30 hours.
The squad were due to leave the UK on Wednesday evening, before arriving in South Africa on Thursday morning and then travelling on to Bloemfontein in plenty of time for Saturday’s game with the Cheetahs.
However, a series of delays and cancellations saw the team arrive less than 24 hours before the originally scheduled kick-off at the Toyota Stadium, a game which could seal Champions Cup qualification for Cardiff Blues.
The full Cardiff Blues travel timeline
Wednesday afternoon – Depart South Wales for Heathrow
Wednesday evening – Arrive at Heathrow to discover the flight to Johannesburg, due to depart at 21:00, has been cancelled. It’s a 20 hour wait until the next flight.
Thursday afternoon – After sleeping at a Heathrow hotel, arrive at the airport and board the 12 hour flight to Johannesburg.
Early Friday morning – Arrive in Johannesburg to discover the connecting flight to Bloemfontein has also been cancelled.
Friday lunchtime – Finally prepare to board the plane to Bloemfontein, however the plane is over-booked leaving Willis Halaholo, Rey Lee-Lo and Ethan Lewis having to catch a different flight to the rest of the touring party.
Friday afternoon – The three separated players arrive in Bloemfontein, but they are the only ones there as the majority of the squad were loaded back into the terminal at Johannesburg after the plane developed a fault.
Friday evening – Over 50 hours after leaving South Wales, the touring party are reunited in Bloemfontein, but without their bags. Guinness Pro14 agree to delay the kick-off by a paltry three hours.
Saturday morning – Wake up on game day and are reunited with the bags.
To arrive in the city less than 24 hours before a big Guinness Pro14 fixture is not ideal, after over 50 hours of travelling including 20 hours of waiting at Heathrow. It will also cost the chance to do a travel recovery session before the captain’s run.
Opportunity to adjust to the altitude, Bloemfontein sits at 4,500 foot above sea level, and the weather, with the city currently experiencing temperatures of around 27C, will also be restricted, putting Cardiff Blues on the back foot before even arriving at the ground.
Generally, other teams have tried to travel out to South Africa as early in the week before a game there as possible, however Danny Wilson said earlier in the week that they had consulted other regions and the WRU over the travel arrangements and how to deal with the different conditions.
However, it is impossible to predict a 20-hour delay hitting a flight, and Cardiff Blues now just have to make the best of the situation they find themselves in ahead of a game on Saturday that could secure a Champions Cup place for next season, should Cheetahs be defeated and Ospreys fail to beat Connacht.
Cheetahs v Cardiff Blues, 17:15 kick-off this Saturday, live on BBC Two Wales