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Ludik glad to have hit back in style with Ulster after hurt of his omission from knockout games

Veteran hungry to build on two-try display as he savours every minute

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Fully focused: Louis Ludik is embracing the challenges ahead of him at Ulster

Fully focused: Louis Ludik is embracing the challenges ahead of him at Ulster

Fully focused: Louis Ludik is embracing the challenges ahead of him at Ulster

For purposes of context, you have to go back to Murrayfield at the start of September and that Guinness PRO14 semi-final.

While there was much celebration taken from Ian Madigan's last-gasp penalty, it was hard to shake off the more than notional realisation that Ulster had pulled off a miraculous escape on a less than vintage evening's work.

Understandably, the most striking part of the post-Edinburgh narrative involved the omission of John Cooney from Dan McFarland's starting side to face Leinster in the final, but Louis Ludik also felt the fallout from that evening's work.

Indeed, both the veteran South African utility back and Cooney had found themselves actually sitting out the second half in Murrayfield though, in Ludik's case, the outcome was more severe as there was no further match day squad involvement for both Ulster's remaining knockout games as last season wrapped up a month ago.

At 34, the risk of being exposed as an outside back is pretty much at its zenith and, though Ludik has seemingly faced down the march of time, what happened during that first half at Murrayfield wasn't a good look as he - and his team-mates - struggled in trying to contain Duhan van der Merwe's swagger.

So with just two short bench cameos banked from this campaign's openers, Ludik's brace of tries - his first touchdowns since February 2019 - in last Sunday's hammering of the Dragons was unavoidably significant as a personal statement.

"That was massive," said Ludik of getting the start and contributing 10 points to the result, Ulster's third win from the same number of games at the start of a new season.

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"I've got a lot of self-pride so every time I go on the field I just give my absolute best as you never know when it will be your last game.

"Just to be able to play 80 minutes again… whenever you get so much older and you know your time is running out, you savour it as much as possible."

Though he doesn't attempt smoke-screening the lowness of not being directly involved in the PRO14 final loss to Leinster and the less than memorable European quarter-final exit at Toulouse, Ludik is philosophical at the call being made.

"Obviously it was disappointing," he said.

"But with so much talent in the team you understand sometimes when a coach picks a team a certain way that's best for the team.

"I have always been a team player so if I'm not needed for that week I do my best off the field to support the guys."

He isn't coy about the fact that time is getting away from him even though he is actually no longer the oldest member of Ulster's backline, as that less than celebrated honour falls to Alby Mathewson, who was born 10 months before Ludik.

"That was my first 80 (minutes) in a while so we'll see," he said of potentially playing at Cardiff Blues for Ulster's first taste of Monday night PRO14 action.

"Embracing it and enjoying it is how I'm seeing it at the moment and the body is feeling good," added Ludik, who also maintains that no decisions have been made yet regarding next season.

"Hopefully we'll have another couple of finals before I retire and I can play in those."

Right now, his mind is on the next game and the chance to rack up four wins from four.

"In a shorter season, every game is vital and we have to grab the points," he said. "The most important thing is we fire shots and leave everything on the field. There is no use in saying, 'We could have' or 'We should have'.

"This is my seventh season and after every season we say, 'We could have' and 'We should have'. We have to make it work."

Ulster ought to heed the voice of experience.

Belfast Telegraph


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