It has been a debut season to remember for Louis Ludik. The former Sharks full-back has played 22 games for Ulster so far and has been a stand-out performer in recent weeks.
Louis Ludik scored twice against Cardiff Blues and bagged another try against Connacht in Galway. Now he, like the rest of the Ulster squad, has his eyes set on helping the team achieve a home play-off, starting with next Saturday’s massive interprovincial match against Munster at Kingspan Stadium.
“The guys are really up for it. The team are rested and we have been well managed over the past few weeks. Everyone knows it’s crunch time. We are playing for a home play-off and that would be massive,” admitted Ludik.
“With interprovincial matches and the Irish guys playing against each other, there’s a lot of rivalry. People want to prove themselves and to beat their opposite number, especially in a World Cup year.
“It’s so tight at the top of the PRO12. It would be awesome to have a home play-off, but if you take your eye off what’s in front of you, then it’s gone. We just have to take it each game at a time. Obviously Munster is first. It’s a must win for us and we will be ready.”
The South African back has experienced the highs and the lows of being an Ulster player. Injuries robbed the squad of key players at crucial points of the season and there were some disappointing results, but he believes credit should go to the whole squad for the achievement of securing a semi-final spot.
“At some stages, we didn’t play to our potential but I believe that with the amount of injuries that we have had that we have done really, really well. I think the young guys that came in played well and have just kept us going especially when the Irish internationals were away.
“I think we are sitting in a good spot but these next few games are so important. It’s a bit like golf, these last few putts are crucial.”
With at least three crucial matches coming up, Ludik highlighted that it is fantastic to have players like Rory Best, Tommy Bowe, Jared Payne and Iain Henderson back in the team because of the experience and winning mentality that they bring.
“You can feel it. You can feel the presence of senior guys coming through. They are patient and they bring confidence to games. When things are tough, everyone is calm and everyone knows that we just need to keep doing what we do. Like last week against Leinster, when were ten-nil down.
“We knew we hadn’t had the ball, so we just knew that we had to get our hands on it and play like we know we can. It makes a massive difference when those experienced guys are in the team – they are special players.”