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We believe we can beat Toulouse

By Jonathan Bradley

Published 17/12/2015

For Ulster's Wiehahn Herbst, last week's big Champions Cup win over Toulouse provided a timely reminder that the province can be a match for any side in the world on their day.

There was little time to dwell on the notable 38-0 victory, the return game in the Stade Ernest Wallon on Sunday is now the pivotal contest in Ulster's European campaign.

But the burly prop says the team can take confidence from the performance into what will be an entirely different challenge this weekend.

"If we play our game on the night then we can beat any team," declared the South African.

"I think we always have a chance against any team. We have a chance against anyone, anywhere.

"Also if we don't play like we can, and don't do what we can, then any team can beat us.

"We have to believe in ourselves and do what we can to get a result."

Herbst thinks the increased belief in the team comes not just from last week but a run of performances, starting in the second-half against Leinster and incorporating the hard-fought victory over Edinburgh, that he cites as evidence of a gradual improvement that has the squad ready to accomplish a feat matched by only two other Irish sides - beating Toulouse in their own back yard.

"Our game plan has evolved nicely for us," he said.

"We have some great decision makers and that's starting to really show. The coaching staff has been great.

"Everyone knows what they're doing. Everyone knows their roles.

"I think we can have a little more confidence, just from showing what we can do. It's a new week, a new game and a total different team that we play against on Sunday."

For Herbst, having previously been exposed to European competition only through Ulster's premature exit last season, Friday night was a first unforgettable experience in continental competition.

"Last year I played in a few but it was really special on Friday night at Kingspan," he recalled.

"It was a great experience and when you get the crowd behind you and get a result like that, it's one that you'll remember forever.

"It's a great result for us as a team and it did lift our morale."

The 27-year-old, however, has already turned the page.

"We didn't think we would beat them by that score but it was a great result for us and the fans.

"Everyone appreciates that but we're not stuck on it.

"We know that it was a great result for us but we're not thinking about that anymore.

"It's in the past; it's a new challenge. We're going to their home turf, they're going to be much better. We have to prepare for that again."

With perfectionists like Les Kiss at the helm, Herbst stressed that the team know they needed to offer an even better performance this weekend with this week's training geared towards providing just that.

"The focus from the coaches has just been on bettering our performance and focusing on us.

"It's totally different. We know what a difference it makes to us playing at home and we have to expect the same for them.

"It's going to be a tough one. We saw at the weekend what worked, we're going to try and be even better.

"We weren't perfect at all. We still have a lot to work on this week and they're going to use that great squad."

That squad depth could see wholesale changes in a pack that were bettered in every department.

Herbst went head-to-head with Vasil Kakovin on Friday, the Georgian loosehead who despite missing out on the World Cup still has 24 Test caps, but Toulouse have the option of instead fielding the vastly experienced Springbok Gurthro Steenkamp this time around.

While the battle up front was seen as a huge factor going in last week, the contest failed to materialise as expected but, playing in front of their own fans, Herbst is banking on a more impassioned showing from the Toulouse eight on Sunday.

"We don't know who they're going to pick or what they're going to look like so it's a completely different challenge this week.

"They were really disappointed with their result on the set-piece.

"They'll be different this week and we know what we have to do."

Belfast Telegraph

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