Belfast Telegraph

Ludik not giving up on home semi-final

By Michael Sadlier

He is already the owner of two Currie Cup winning medals from his time with the Sharks, and now Louis Ludik is three games away from potentially adding to that collection from this his first season playing in the PRO12.

The South African smiles at the thought, but the 28-year-old is not going to loiter around the notion with so much still to be done starting today in the final regulation season game in Glasgow. It looks destined to be a dramatic afternoon with the outcomes still in the balance when it comes to who earns the right to host a semi-final by finishing in first and second place.

Yes, but Ulster having made 12 changes to their starting side - Ludik is just one of three who have been retained from last week's draw with Munster - does more than suggest that they might not be improving on fourth.

"Yes that would be nice," Ludik said regarding the medal, but the full-back, who can also play on the wing and in the centre, is rather more sure-footed when discussing what today's mission entails.

"It's hanging in the balance (for the home semi), but anybody can go through," said Ludik.

Though the odds on Ulster's wish-list coming to fruition seem more than somewhat unlikely - Glasgow, who are unbeaten in the PRO12 at Scotstoun since 2013, badly need to win and with a bonus to claim their home semi-final - Ludik remains upbeat of the massive challenge for this much-changed starting team's aim of chasing down a victory and then hoping for a result elsewhere to go their way.

"We'll definitely go for the game," said Ludik. "You can't just back down. Yes, it's out of our hands where we play it (the semi-final), but we'll be in there and do our best.

"In rugby there is never a 'given'. There is never an easy way out and anything can happen on the day with the bounce of a ball."

One thing that does look certain is Ludik's current form which has seen him score three tries in the last four games.

"I've been very happy and working really hard off the field," said Ludik, who recently became a father for the first time with the birth of son Leo.

"I've been happy on the field and happy to be injury free and to just be playing. I think I'm now really used to the style of the team and I've been really enjoying it."

It hasn't all been plain sailing as there have been notable injuries including an uncomfortable blow to his finger which required running repairs in the midst of last Saturday's excitement against Munster.

"I got a bang," he said, showing a rather misshapen finger, "and I got some X-rays on Monday but it's all good and it's not broken.

"I got a bit of a fright, but it's just a little bit of ligaments or something," which is nothing compared to the rib fracture he shipped in Toulon back in January.

He cut a pretty forlorn figure in Toulon airport, after his first game back in France since joining Ulster from Agen last summer, when brandishing his X-ray after Ulster's record European reverse and then he also looked in some pain after taking another hit on the rib last month in Connacht.

"It was exactly the same rib (as Toulon) and I just got a bang on it but it's fine now," he explained, though the knock didn't keep him out for the Leinster game two weeks' later.

For all that he has certainly been pretty resilient and today will mark Ludik's 24th game from a total of 28 matches Ulster have played in their season up to now.

But, of course, congratulations on consistency are of no interest right now as today there is a job to do and an unlikely looking win to try and deliver which, if other results manage to go Ulster's way, would miraculously bring their semi-final to the Kingspan.

Though it looks as if Ludik and his team-mates will probably end up having to buck the trend by becoming the first side to triumph in a semi away from home - he swats aside any notion of feeling the heat.

"These are the games (against Glasgow) you look forward to. Yes, there's a lot of pressure on but that's what we train for, that's what we work for.

"And If you put too much pressure on yourself you will make mistakes. We know we must just concentrate with what just happens on the field and in that moment."

And will Ulster be fatally damaged should they fail in their quest for that Kingspan play-off? Ludik chooses not to be seen hanging around with this query.

"Home advantage (in the semi-final) is massive, but at the end of the day we will do our best.

"It's rugby and anything can happen. In rugby you never know and that gives us hope."

Point taken, but it will be some result if they pull it off.

Belfast Telegraph


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