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Pedrie Wannenburg hoping to leave mark on Ulster's young stars

By Niall Crozier

Ulster’s recently-arrived Spingbok Pedrie Wannenburg is counting the days to the start of the season-proper.

So he is happy to be one of only six of last weekend’s starters retained for tomorrow afternoon’s meeting with Harlequins at The Stoop (2.30pm kick-off).

With the competitive season starting a fortnight hence, Brian McLaughlin’s much-changed starting line-up shows nine changes to that which faced Bath.

Darren Cave and Ian Whitten continue in tandem in the centre, other than that, it is a case of all change behind the scrum.

At full-back, Queens' David McIlwaine replaces Jamie Smith, who suffered an eye injury against Bath, with Craig Gilroy and Nevin Spence taking over from Mark McCrea and Tommy Seymour on the wings.

Ian Porter and Niall O'Connor are the half-backs, replacing shoulder injury victim Paul Marshall and Ian Humphreys at numbers nine and 10 respectively.

Bryan Young’s recovery from the hip injury he picked up ahead of last week’s game means he starts at loosehead alongside Andi Kyriacou who is named at hooker, leaving Declan Fitzpatrick as the only member of last weekend’s starting front row to have been retained.

So too is Johann Muller, who will captain the side once again after creating history by doing so last week in what was his Ulster debut.

On this occasion Ryan Caldwell partners the big Springbok in the engine-room.

The only change to the back three is the inclusion of TJ Anderson in place of Willie Faloon at openside.

That means South African pair Wannenburg and Robbie Diack continue at blindside and No 8.

Having scored a try against Bath in last Friday night’s curtain-raising Ravenhill friendly, the 20-times-capped Wannenburg — who achieved a first by becoming the first player to make 100 appearances for the Bulls — is keen to build on those impressive foundations.

Not surprisingly then, the 29-year-old, who won three Super 14 titles with the Bulls and was a member of the side which lifted the Currie Cup five times, is more than happy to be in action for the second time in eight days.

Pointing to the fact that Ulster have had to field so many youngsters in the absence of unavailable big-name international players, Wannenburg said he has been encouraged by what he has seen to date.

“There are a lot of positives. Bath put out a very strong side and we came back very well against them,” the Springbok star said.

“In those last 15 minutes we were strong so that was very good.”

As for his personal fitness his wholly positive assessment was: “I was off for five weeks after the Super 14 but I think it’s picking up really quickly now.

“I will be perfect in two weeks time.”

He added: “This is all warming up stuff for the Ospreys game, which is a target date.

“But it’s not just about one match; it’s about the season as a whole and what we are able to do in it.”

Ulster supporters will be delighted to hear that the affable Wannenburg sees his role and that of his fellow-Boks as being rather more than merely playing.

He is keen to share his vast wealth of knowledge and experience in working alongside Ulster’s emerging youngsters.

“I haven’t retired. After so many years of playing in South Africa I wanted to have a fresh challenge,” he said.

“We want to give back to other people. We South Africans are over here to try and show a winning culture.”

ULSTER: B Young, A Kyriacou, D Fitzpatrick; J Muller (captain), R Caldwell; P Wannenburg, TJ Anderson, R Diack. Replacements: N Brady, P Karayiannis, A Macklin, T Barker, N McComb, M Heaney, I Humphreys, L Marshall, J Shiels, M McCrea.

Belfast Telegraph

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