Ulster's South African players boost Declan Fitzpatrick's belief
While last week may not have been the perfect start Ulster were hoping for, they are looking to the future.
Certainly prop forward Declan Fitzpatrick is positive about the new season’s prospects. One of the reasons for his upbeat mood is the lead being offered by South African Johann Muller.
“Johann is great! If you want to be positive about Ulster rugby speak to Johann — he’s buzzing! You come away from chatting with him and you just want to play,” Fitzpatrick said.
Explaining the current state of play within the Ulster camp he added: “Our strength and conditining coaches have worked on our rugby a lot during pre-season.
“We ran a lot of hills last year, but it drained us towards the end of the season. It wasn’t an error but we’ve learnt from experience — we’re in good shape and building up towards the Ospreys.
“We reviewed last season and the period we lost our form, but we were able to sit down and talk about it and ask why.
“It’s a great thing at the minute — everyone is really open with each other, which hasn’t happened in the past.
“We’re all focused on the main goal of winning.”
Ulster’s squad has certainly been bolstered by the recruitment of Muller, fellow-South African Pedrie Wannenburg and the imminent arrival of another Springbok, Ruan Pienaar.
“We have recruited well and have a great squad on our hands. We definitely have a chance to do well this year — everyone is excited about it,” Fitzpatrick continued.
“It’s great to be working alongside them. You study and learn from them, and add it to your own game.”
Although he earned a call-up to the Ireland squad last season, his main focus right now is Ulster.
“If you play well for your province you never know what will happen,” he admits.
“You can’t rest on your laurels and wait for it to happen. You need to go out and make it happen and I’ll be looking to take any opportunity that arises.
“We weren’t far from a top four finish last year, but we need to set ourselves high standards.”
As for Ulster’s prospects, he said: “We’re pitted against the best opposition in the world this season — we need to go out and win every game.
“We have a few things off our back now since we won away in England and beat Bath. Our biggest challenge this season will be to win in France but we’re positive we can do it.”