Ulster European woes as injury-hit Ludik and Cave miss out
Ulster's misfortune with injuries has struck again as both Louis Ludik and Darren Cave will now be spending time on the sidelines just as the season ramps up for Europe.
With Ulster's opening Champions Cup game at Bordeaux coming up on Sunday, the timing of this latest blow could have hardly come at a more challenging moment.
Ludik will be out for four to six weeks after the in-form South African fractured his cheekbone in a shuddering collision with Bundee Aki during the second half of last Friday's first defeat of the season in the PRO12 derby with Connacht in Galway.
It is a devastating blow for the luckless Ludik, who actually turned 30 the day after being felled by this latest injury while playing centre.
His versatility will be sorely missed as Ulster prepare to set out their stall in Europe over the next two weekends, first in Bordeaux on Sunday, and then when hosting Exeter six days later.
Cave picked up a calf tear in the opening half against Connacht and did not appear after the break. The 29-year-old centre will be out for three to four weeks.
It means Les Kiss will be heading to Bordeaux with another midfield combination - Jared Payne may well be moved back to 13 - though there appears to be positive news regarding Luke Marshall and Stuart Olding who, it is believed, will both be available after their respective concussion and groin issues.
Andrew Trimble is also ready to finally play, while Charles Piutau who sat out the Connacht game with a concussive issue and Ruan Pienaar - who was rested - should be back.
Up front Ulster are hopeful that lock Franco van der Merwe will be fit again while Dan Tuohy may also come into the frame as he played for Ulster A last weekend after 10 months out with an ankle injury.