Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 28 December 2014

Muller to make huge call after Euro glory bid

Powerhouse: Johann Muller puts Montpellier under pressure during Ulster's impressive Heineken Cup win in France
Powerhouse: Johann Muller puts Montpellier under pressure during Ulster's impressive Heineken Cup win in France

The plan had been to go out for a light jog and, as he laughingly admitted, "Run off a bit of Christmas pudding" but the outcome was rather more unfortunate as Johann Muller's festive road run ended up with damaged scar tissue in the calf he had originally injured two months before.

It had happened during Christmas week when the Ulster skipper was being rested for the Leinster game and hadn't been shaken off for last week's meeting with Munster. Indeed, thanks to that troublesome calf, there are also no cast-iron guarantees the 33-year-old will even be togging out tomorrow night against Montpellier.

"Yeah, it's so frustrating," says Muller. "And it's not a new injury, it's just a bit of scar tissue from the previous injury that just went."

The 24-times capped Springbok has certainly had a bit of a bad run with injuries, both last season and during this one, which along with the fact that his future at Ulster after this campaign is not yet finalised, has only added fuel to the growing fire of speculation that his playing days may nearly be at an end.

He laughs when invited to comment on the situation but offers some clarity as to his thought process regarding the future.

"I've always said that at the end of January or beginning of February I'll make my decision," he says.

"(Ulster Director of Rugby) David Humphreys knows exactly where he stands with me and I know exactly where I stand with him and there's no pressure from back home to go back (to the family farm in Mossel Bay).

"I'm going home after the Leicester game (next weekend) and I will put my feet up for a week. I'll have a glass of wine with my wife and we'll basically discuss the future," states Muller before adding, "by the time of the next PRO12 game early in February (at home to the Ospreys) we'll definitely have an answer."

And with all that out of the way, he is able to focus on tomorrow night's game with a victory over Montpellier the only option for Ulster as they bid to win Pool Five by backing it up with another triumph over close rivals Leicester at Welford Road next weekend – assuming that the Tigers do not trip up at Treviso on Saturday.

Two games then with a huge amount hinging on them and a home quarter-final – at a hopefully finished Ravenhill – beckoning.

"The next two weeks for us are cup finals," says Muller. "This is the first final for us and if we want to have any say in European rugby this season then this is one we have to get over first."

Even though the struggling French are out of the running – Ulster impressively dismissed them in Montpellier back in October – Muller is eager to eradicate any thoughts that this could be a walkover.

"Montpellier come here with nothing to lose and a French side with nothing to lose is a really, really dangerous one," he warns.

And even though PRO12 leaders Munster were beaten 29-19 last Friday, Ulster still managed to struggle – they led 20-0 at one point – in conceding three tries, two of which came from lineout mauls.

Rest assured, argues Muller, that all of this has been addressed this week.

"There have been hard words this week," the captain says.

"It's something we've addressed," he states with conviction.

"If we don't win we'll put ourselves under massive pressure for the week to come (at Leicester) and looking at this place right now," Muller says, glancing out of the window at Ravenhill, "this is where you want to play a Heineken Cup quarter-final."

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