Pre-season is over, the warm-ups are done and dusted, it is now down to the business of competitive rugby and the start of the GUINNESS PRO12 for the Ulster squad.
The senior players on the Ulster panel are well used to league trips to South Wales but for some of the new members of the squad, such as Louis Ludik, next Saturday’s trip to Parc y Scarlets represents a whole new experience.
“I’m looking forward to playing in the PRO12,” he told www.UlsterRugby.com. “This week’s game is massive. It doesn’t matter whether you play away or at home, it’s important to win that first match.
“It gives you momentum and confidence. Pre-season went well and the warm-up games went well, but this is where it counts.”
Ludik arrived in Belfast in early July and was pitched straight into a tough pre-season programme. Despite the intensity of the past seven weeks, he knows that that hard work will pay massive dividends when the campaign begins this weekend.
“I am very happy that pre season is over! We have been working on plays that target the weaknesses of the opposition. Our coaches are really good at getting their messages across. Les (Kiss), Neil (Doak), Jonny (Bell) and Allen (Clarke) are really specific in their instructions.”
The South African back played in both pre-season matches. Against Exeter Chiefs he started at outside centre and he was full-back in the match against Leinster in Tallaght last Saturday.
“In the first game I had a lot of ball, that was very nice. As full-back against Leinster it was more tough. Even though we won (10-7), I didn’t have as much ball in hand. I’m a bit more comfortable at full-back. There is a bit more contact at 13 and a few more tackles.”
One thing that always comes across when you speak to Ludik is his passion for the game. The 27-year-old, who has signed a two-year deal with Ulster, added: “It’s a privilege for me to play rugby. I had a big injury and once you have had a career threatening injury you think differently about things.
“Every time that I walk off the field I am very grateful to have played. I put a lot of pressure on myself to play well. To be on the field means a lot and to play for Ulster is a great honour.”