Robbie Diack delight as Stefan Terblanche arrival looms
With New Zealander John Afoa safely gathered into the fold, Ulster now are waiting for clearance of South African full-back Stefan Terblanche’s work permit.
Confirmation of an arrival date is imminent.
Already Ulster skipper Johann Muller has expressed his delight that his former Sharks and Springboks is on his way to Belfast.
And yesterday another of Ulster’s South Africans, Robbie Diack, echoed his captain’s words by highlighting what he believes 36-year-old Terblanche will bring to the table.
“He’s played at Ospreys, he’s played for the Sharks, he’s played for the Springboks, he has played at the highest level,” said Diack.
The back row forward, who will be on the bench on Saturday (KO 5.35pm) when Ulster host Connacht in the RabDirect Pro 12, reckons Terblanche’s experience of big-time, high-pressure rugby will be a massive plus.
“He has played a huge amount of rugby in his career and everybody who has ever played beside him says the same thing; he is a proper team player who offers a lot on and off the pitch,” he said.
“I think him coming to Ulster at this very important time of the season, with the Heineken Cup approaching, will be brilliant for the team.
“He has been playing really well in South Africa and to have somebody with his huge amount of experience joining us is a really big plus.”
Terblanche’s arrival will enable Ulster to cope with having lost Jared Payne following his Achilles tendon rupture.
It also brings to five the number of South Africans on Ulster’s books, Muller, Ruan Pienaar, Pedrie Wannenburg and Diack being the others.
Diack, however, is different to his fellow countrymen in that – by residency – he has just become eligible to play for Ireland.
“Obviously, if I do get the opportunity to play for Ireland, I will take it,” he said. “To play for Ireland ‘A’ is a goal at this stage, but a whole lot of other things would have to happen before that.
“First, I need to establish myself in the Ulster side. I’m not in the starting line-ups because Pedrie, Stevie (Ferris) and Chris (Henry) are there and playing so well.
“They all deserve to be there. If I’m to get into the team, I’m going to have to pick up my game a bit and play a little better. Hopefully I can get some opportunity to play because that’s what I need – an opportunity to show my talents.”
Whilst he knows Ulster have lost ground in the Pro12 following four successive defeats, Diack is confident there is ample time in which to turn things round.
“We just have to make sure that we take advantage of the games coming up. Obviously, with the Heineken (Cup) just around the corner, that’s also a focus at the moment. But the RaboDirect Pro 12 is definitely a target for us.
“We’ve got our goals. We want to reach those semis come May. We’re good enough to do it, I have no doubt of that,” he said.