Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 16 April 2014

Diack can’t make up for lost time

Robbie Diack is determined that Ulster finish the season on a high note against Connacht tomorrow night

The season is ending too early for Ulster’s South African No 8 Robbie Diack.

The Magners League derby with Connacht at Ravenhill tomorrow night marks the end of another campaign, just as he has returned to top form following more injury-induced frustration.

He would love it to go on, enabling him to make good some of his latest lost time, for just as was the case in 2008/09 the former Stormers player has been denied inclusion for much of the now-ending campaign which followed.

A promising start to 2009/10 was cruelly torpedoed when the 6’6” back row forward, who weighs a healthy 18 stone, suffered injury against Munster in Limerick on October 31.

Sidelined from Halloween until mid-February, finally he returned to action with the Ravens against Llanelli at Parc y Scarlets.

Since then he has appeared in six of the seniors’ last seven outings, starting in two of the last three. Remarkably, half his 2009/10 tally of four 80-minute shifts have come in the space of 12 days.

His Ravenhill inclusion against Ospreys on April 13 was his first full match as an Ulster senior since October 2. And he promptly reminded Ulster supporters of what they had been missing in the six months he had been away with a man of the match performance.

“I worked hard at my rehab with the fitness coaches so it’s great to feel part of the team again. As a professional you just want to play so I’ve really loved getting game time,” he said. “I just hope it carries through to next season.”

The fact that, since returning, he has looked like he was never away, can be sourced to knowing that he had to do well.

“There is so much competition for places in the back row that you have to prove yourself by taking whatever opportunities come your way,” he said. “We have Chris Henry, David Pollock, Willie Faloon, Dan Tuohy, TJ Anderson and of course Stephen Ferris, so you know that if you don’t play well you just won’t be in the side.

“I’ve just been really lucky to have had a few good games. The win against Edinburgh in the last one was fantastic.

“We haven’t a particularly good track record at Murrayfield so to have gone there, played some great rugby and got five points was great, particularly as the pressure really was on us.

“From a personal perspective, obviously I’d like the season to be going on a bit longer.

“Before that, though, we play Connacht and that will be hard. I’ve played three times against them and they’ve always been tough. Connacht have been playing some brilliant rugby. I watched their Amlin Cup game against Toulon last weekend and they were very good. They were unlucky to lose that.

“They beat Leinster with a great performance and they were unlucky against Munster.

“So I’m expecting a huge battle up front. They’re going to come out fired up and we’re going to have to cope with that.

“With it being our last match we want to finish with a win so we end on a positive note.

“We want to give our supporters a good night, too. They deserve that because they have been incredibly loyal.”

l Former Ireland coach Eddie O'Sullivan has led the tributes to Girvan Dempsey after the Leinster and Ireland full-back announced he is to retire at the end of this season.

“When I selected Girvan for his first U-21 cap back in 1996 I knew he was destined to represent Ireland at the highest level,” he said.

“A true gentleman and a consummate professional both on and off the field.”