Marcell Coetzee is set to make his first start of the season for Ulster against the Isuzu Southern Kings in the third round of the GUINNESS PRO14 at Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium on Saturday (kick-off 4pm local time/3pm Irish time).
The 28-year-old South African back rower is one of five changes that head coach Dan McFarland has made to the starting XV that was comprehensively defeated 63-26 by the in-form Toyota Cheetahs last weekend.
Second row and sometime captain Alan O’Connor is the only other change to the pack. Ireland international Rob Herring retains the captaincy and will be joined in the front row by Eric O’Sullivan and Tom O’Toole.
O’Connor is joined in the engine room by Australian Sam Carter, who notched his first PRO14 try in Bloemfontein. Matthew Rea and Sean Reidy complete the back row positions with Coetzee, who has recovered from the long-term ankle injury he sustained while on duty with the Springboks.
Stuart McCloskey linked up with the Ulster squad in South Africa this week and returns to partner Luke Marshall in midfield, while Louis Ludik joins Matt Faddes and Craig Gilroy in the back-three, and Billy Burns slots back in at out-half in place of Bill Johnston, last week’s debutant.
Former Ireland Under-20 international Angus Curtis could make his first appearance since last October if called upon from the bench. David Shanahan and James Hume are the other back-line options, with Adam McBurney, Kyle McCall, Ross Kane, Kieran Treadwell and Greg Jones providing the cover up front.
Speaking ahead of the clash in Port Elizabeth, McFarland said: “Last year the Southern Kings were very open with a lot of counter-attacking and they took a lot of risk. This year they’re far more risk-averse. Their game is built around a very strong kicking game and mauls from lineouts.
“They also have some very dangerous backs so it’s a case of understanding what they’re about, but also making sure we’re getting parts of the game that we didn’t get right last week, right this week.
“We’re fairly early on in the season and the Kings haven’t shown us too much. We understand certain things they do but it’s about focusing on ourselves and doing the things we do well correctly. One of those is making sure we make use of the possession we get and the other is dealing with what they’re good at.”
ULSTER (v Isuzu Southern Kings): Matt Faddes; Craig Gilroy, Luke Marshall, Stuart McCloskey, Louis Ludik; Billy Burns, John Cooney; Eric O’Sullivan, Rob Herring (capt), Tom O’Toole, Alan O’Connor, Sam Carter, Matthew Rea, Sean Reidy, Marcell Coetzee.
Replacements: Adam McBurney, Kyle McCall, Ross Kane, Kieran Treadwell, Greg Jones, David Shanahan, Angus Curtis, James Hume.