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Ludik fired up for hot festive double

By Jonathan Bradley

What with the unseasonably mild December, if Louis Ludik had closed his eyes during Ulster's win over Clermont on Saturday, he felt he could have been back in South Africa.

During the high-scoring affair that reinvigorated the province's European campaign - Les Kiss's side scored five tries to their French visitors' four in a 39-22 win ahead of Sunday's double bid - the former Natal Shark, as well as his compatriot Wiehahn Herbst, were reminded of a Super Rugby contest.

"Myself and Wiehahn, we talked about it, and that first-half felt exactly like Super Rugby because it was so quick," he said.

"There were big forwards coming around the corner and breaking tackles. You just had to scramble. It was good fun.

"It was my first 80 minutes back after the (cheekbone) injury and they're a really good side to come up against."

Ulster's win last weekend brought them up to nine points in the pool, level with Bordeaux who must still come to Belfast, but Clermont are still three ahead.

And in the Auvergne region of France, not far from Agen where Ludik played before joining Ulster, the utility back is under no illusions as to how big a task it will be on Sunday to bridge that gap and do the double.

"You could see they were hurting afterwards and they are a very passionate side," he said. "They are number one in the Top 14 and you can see why.

"It's going to be tough over there and everyone knows what the atmosphere is like. Hopefully I'll be involved and it will be an amazing occasion. They are going to be up for it."

The recent past augurs well though, after Ulster dispatched French giants Toulouse twice in two weeks a year ago.

"We knew it was going to be tough over in Toulouse as well but we stuck to our guns," recalled Ludik. "We'll see how many guys are hurt and see what we did wrong."

One area Ludik says the side must improve are their restarts, which have posed problems all season.

Ulster were under pressure right from the kick-off, and indeed conceded after just 67 seconds having failed to regather the ball, while it remained an issue throughout the game.

"That's one thing we have to look at," he stressed. "We put ourselves under pressure with the kick-off. We definitely have to look at that. The guys scrambled well, even though (Wes) Fofana broke the line.

"They're a very good side. We have to be very good again."

Clermont will be without English winger David Strettle who dislocated his index finger in the first-half of Saturday's contest.

He will be one of only three absentees, however, with Welsh prop Aaron Jarvis still targeting a return in the new year from a wrist injury and Judicaël Cancoriet also absent.

Other players who missed the Belfast game such as Noa Nakaitaci, Julien Bardy, John Ulugia and Paul Jedrasiak are expected to be fit.

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