Ulster head coach Dan McFarland have named a 28-strong squad that will travel to South Africa to play the Toyota Cheetahs and the Isuzu Southern Kings in the GUINNESS PRO14 over the next two weekends.
Key back rower Marcell Coetzee is a notable inclusion for the province, as he returns from an injury picked up in during South Africa’s Rugby World Cup warm-up series. He injured his ankle last month during his first start in four years for the Springboks.
Sam Carter, Matt Faddes and Jack McGrath, who all made their Ulster debuts during last Friday’s 38-14 bonus point win over the Ospreys, are included along with fellow summer signing Bill Johnston, the former Munster out-half who could make his bow for his new provincial side in South Africa.
Speaking to Ulster Rugby TV about the trip back to his native South Africa, experienced back Louis Ludik said: “It was really great to be back at Kingspan Stadium (last Friday). I got a bit of a late call-up, it was a big of a surprise in the end. But it was good fun, the guys played really well. A bonus point win and a really good start, really positive.
“We’re going very early this season to South Africa. It’ll be a bit of a team bonding thing, and while it’s not too hot in South Africa because in the next couple of months the heat is turning up quite a bit, at least the ball’s going to be very dry and there’ll be a lot of attractive running rugby, so we’re looking forward to it.
“The Cheetahs made a massive statement over the weekend (beating Glasgow Warriors 48-14), and obviously winning the Currie Cup (this year). They’re definitely on form and it’s going to be very tough over there. They’ve brought in a couple of players and they’re looking very strong. It’s going to be a really tough game but we’re looking forward to it.”
He added: “It’s going to be great playing against Ruan (Pienaar) again. He’s played extremely well during the Currie Cup campaign and especially last weekend, he’s on form. We all know him, we’ve played with him and against him.
“It’s going to be interesting playing against him again. He’s such a great talent and such a good player, so we’ll obviously have to watch him. But it’s always good fun playing against old friends on the field.”
ULSTER Squad (South Africa Tour) – Backs (12): Billy Burns, John Cooney, Angus Curtis, Matt Faddes, Craig Gilroy, James Hume, Bill Johnston, Michael Lowry, Louis Ludik, Robert Lyttle, Luke Marshall, David Shanahan.
Forwards (16): John Andrew, Sam Carter, Marcell Coetzee, Rob Herring (capt), Greg Jones, Ross Kane, Adam McBurney, Kyle McCall, Jack McGrath, Alan O’Connor, Eric O’Sullivan, Tom O’Toole, Matthew Rea, Sean Reidy, Clive Ross, Kieran Treadwell.