Ulster will travel to Connacht on Friday night knowing that they have already secured qualification for next year’s Heineken Cup.
Both sides lost their last games, but Connacht’s defeat at the Dragons means Ulster have an unassailable lead over Michael Bradley’s men.
Ulster coach Matt Williams is hoping for a strong finish to the Magners League campaign with wins in Galway and at the Scarlets which would guarantee a fifth place finish in the league and represent a huge improvement from last season.
“There have been so many close games this season, we beat Glasgow by a point, we lost to the Ospreys and Cardiff by two points and we’re running fifth in the competition,” said Williams.
“From where we where when I came in 18 months ago we had eight points and were last — and at the start of the season — we would have taken fifth.”
“Connacht away is the big focus and we’ve got to learn how to win those close games, we won one the week before then we lost one last week, but it is still a work in progress.”
The Australian has blooded young players this season and with the likes of Kieron Dawson and Carlo Del Fava leaving at the end of the campaign Williams believes giving the youngsters experience will pay dividends next year.
“Against Cardiff they had a guy at centre with over 100 Welsh caps. We put out three 21-year-olds at 7, 10 and 13 which is phenomenal for the team and Ulster rugby.
“Those three 21-year-olds will make those errors and they won’t close those games out and unfortunately that’s just where it is.
“What we are doing is building for the years to come and it is a huge bonus for us that the majority of the team that played against Cardiff could play for nine years together.
“In individual games and as a season it has been frustrating because in the games we’ve lost we could have easily won them and the bonus is we’re not a million miles away.
“In both games against Cardiff we’ve lost by two points and they are European Cup semi-finalists, we lost to the Ospreys by a couple of points and the Dragons. All those games were there to be won.”