The Ulster squad have arrived in South Africa ahead of Saturday afternoon’s GUINNESS PRO14 match against the Southern Kings at Wolfson Stadium in Kwazakele, Port Elizabeth (kick-off 3pm local time/1pm Irish time).
The Ulster coaching team has brought a group of 25 players, which will be based in Port Elizabeth. South African prop Schalk van der Merwe could make his much-anticipated Ulster debut if he is selected to play against his former club.
There is plenty of experience within the panel, with five players having played over 150 games for the province. Craig Gilroy is currently on 149 appearances and will reach that milestone if he is selected this weekend.
Jonny Stewart – a debutant at scrum half in the game against Leinster at the weekend – has travelled to South Africa along with fellow Abbey Insurance Academy player Adam McBurney, the Ballymena hooker.
Ulster are looking to bounce back from two disappointing defeats to La Rochelle and Leinster, and must do so without their Ireland internationals. Their director of rugby Les Kiss said: “That’s what it is. We can lean on that and use it as a way out but we won’t. I won’t let that happen and the coaches won’t let that happen.
“We need to be better than we have been and that starts with the first part of preparation. That starts now. There’s 24 hours of travel, it’s a long flight, and we have to hit the ground running when we get there.
“We’ll get one good session and a Captain’s Run. We’ll have to mix up the training in the off-time to make it work. There’s a genuine enthusiasm about it but we’re not going on holiday, we’re going for a job. Rugby is like that, it gives you these experiences but it comes down to 80 minutes and there’s no doubt we’re excited and enthused about it.”
Meanwhile, Ulster Rugby are working with their travel partner, Killester Travel, to provide assisted travel for Ulster supporters from central Port Elizabeth to the Wolfson Stadium. Ulster recommend that all supporters attending the match use this free service.
The coach will depart from the Board Walk Hotel, Port Elizabeth and any Ulster supporters wishing to avail of this service need to confirm their details by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. Final details on times will then be communicated directly to supporters via Killester Travel.
Southern Kings v Ulster tickets are available from all TicketPro outlets or online from www.ticketpros.co.za.
ULSTER Squad (South Africa Tour) – Backs (11): Tommy Bowe, Darren Cave, John Cooney, Craig Gilroy, Christian Lealiifano, Louis Ludik, Luke Marshall, Peter Nelson, Charles Piutau, Jonny Stewart, Andrew Trimble.
Forwards (14): John Andrew, Callum Black, Robbie Diack, Chris Henry, Wiehahn Herbst, Ross Kane, Adam McBurney, Alan O’Connor, Matthew Rea, Sean Reidy, Clive Ross, Kieran Treadwell, Schalk van der Merwe, Andrew Warwick.