Heineken Cup: Ulster have character to rise to occasion, says Muller
When South African lock Johann Muller joined Ulster, one of the things which played a big part in persuading him to do so was the prospect of playing in the Heineken Cup.
With his first season coming to an end he and his team mates have emerged from the group stage to take their place in the quarter-finals.
“Obviously exciting times,” the 6ft 7in former Springboks captain beams.
“I just thought about it while we were scrumming earlier; I don’t think one of the players in this whole group has played in the quarter-final of a Heineken Cup before and that’s really exciting, not only for me but for the whole group, the coaching staff, everybody — the whole of Belfast and Northern Ireland.
“Hopefully we can live up to the standard we set for ourselves at the beginning of the season.”
He exudes confidence, despite the Ulster players’ lack of experience in the knock-out stages of European club rugby’s premier competition.
“We’re obviously going there as huge underdogs, which suits us perfectly. They’re a really good side. They’ve got a great pack of forwards and a back three who can score tries from all over the place so it’s definitely going to be tough,” Muller says.
“It’s our biggest test of the season so far but this is why we play this game.
“We play for big occasions like this.
“The spirit in the team has been brilliant and the guys are really looking forward to Sunday.”
He knows that Ulster have been digging out victories recently, leaving it very late before finally securing Magners League points. He knows, too, that they must raise their game against Northampton.
“We haven’t played great rugby but in saying that the spirit and the character we’ve shown over the last couple of weeks in coming back and winning games like that is a huge bonus for us,” he said.
Muller does not foresee any problem with motivation for Sunday.
“You always get yourself up a little bit more for quarter-final games, especially if it’s Heineken Cup and it’s away from home.
“So I’m not too worried about performances. I think character is a lot more important to us than performances at this stage,” he reasons.