He arrived as Ulster’s fourth hooker, but having received the nod to start ahead of Nigel Brady and Niall Annett in the game against Glasgow Warriors, now new boy Rob Herring has been given the thumbs up for the trip to Swansea, too.
And now he wants to press on in order to ensure that when Rory Best (pictured with coach Mark Anscombe) returns, the Irish hooker’s restoration to the middle of the Ulster front row is no foregone conclusion.
Clearly the 22-year-old Irish-qualified South African is ambitious and one does not have to be a nuclear physicist to work out what’s going on in his head.
He has made quite an impact since arriving, his settling in process having been helped by the fact that he had sampled northern hemisphere life with London Irish whose Academy he joined in 2009. He made his senior debut for Irish against Northampton in May 2010. After that he returned to his home land where he was involved in Western Province’s Vodacom Cup squad before joining Ulster.
“It has all happened pretty quickly. Pre-season and then straight into the start of the season,” he smiles.
He has adapted impressively, with a little help from others.
“I stayed with Robbie (Diack) for the first month and that helped me settle in,” he reveals.
After that he lived with Jared Payne and Sean Doyle for a while.
“I’ve moved in with Birchy (Ali Birch) now and we’ll be sharing for the rest of the season. He’s a good guy to live with, I get on well with him,” Herring says.
Who’s the cook?
“Not him!” comes the rapid dismissal of Birch’s culinary skills.
The South African is finding his feet. He says: “We spend a lot of time down on the Lisburn Road. I’m getting to know Belfast a bit better now, just driving around and exploring a little. It’s not that big so you can get to know it pretty quickly.
“I’m from Cape Town and it’s quite a small city, too,” he reminds me.
Initially the Ulster weather was a downer, but he coped.
“The first few weeks I got here it was pretty wet, but the guys were awesome and the people you meet here are just so friendly.”
Obviously having fellow-South Africans around helped.
“It’s great having Johann (Muller) and Robbie here. Robbie looked after me when I arrived and Johann is always asking me how I am and if things are okay.”
He highlights Diack’s form to date this season.
“He’s playing awesomely. He was our man of the match against Glasgow,” Herring says.
He is impressed, too, as to overall standard he has seen.
“It’s awesome, especially on set-piece where the forwards are just expected to be 100% all the time. Now that the internationals have come back to training the standard has just lifted; there’s a lot more energy in the sessions,” he explains.
“There are internationals everywhere, great players all around you, guys who have played many times for Ulster. There’s a lot of experience, but also a lot of young guys, which is good,” he enthuses.
“There’s a lot of talent in the squad; you can see how Ulster have progressed.”
Relishing the competition for front row places, he continues: “Obviously when Rory comes back he will want the jersey. And Nigel (Brady) has been around for a long time so he’s got a lot of experience behind him. And Niall Annett is there, too, so we’re all pushing each other on.”
Personal goals? “I want to carry on starting, pushing for a place and pushing Rory when he comes back. I want to be a valuable member of the side.
“There are a lot of hookers, but there are a lot of games. And competition is good; it drives you, pushes you, helps you as a player.
“And I can’t complain about the quality of the props, can I? I have internationals all around me and so far Callum Black has been awesome; he’s scrummaging really well. Those guys make it pretty easy for me when it comes to scrum time.”