Ulster dealt double injury blow ahead of Belfast interpro against Munster
Ulster will be without key duo Marcell Coetzee and Louis Ludik for Friday's crunch interprovincial clash against Munster at Kingspan Stadium.
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Springbok No.8 Coetzee is undergoing the return to play protocols after a big hit from Connacht prop Paddy McAllister in last week's game in Belfast.
Full-back Ludik suffered an ankle injury in the same game and will miss the province's next three games, starting with Munster on Friday and followed by their final two Champions Cup pool games against Clermont and Bath.
Ulster have also been dealt a significant blow with young centre Angus Curtis ruled out until next season after undergoing surgery on a knee injury sustained in their game against Leinster at the RDS Arena.
The 21-year-old had been a frequent contributor to Ulster's squads this season, making six appearances before sustaining the injury in a tackle from Scott Fardy in last week's 54-42 loss in Dublin.
Of the two new injuries sustained against Connacht, the loss of back rower Coetzee looks to be the more damaging of the two given his relentless work-rate and bruising ball carrying that Ulster rely on.
Coetzee has carried 136 times in just eight games for Ulster this season, the only player to have triple-digit carries, averaging 1.85 metres per carry and leading the team in defenders beaten with a whopping 26.
Defensively, Coetzee has also been rock solid, with an 89.22% success rate in 102 attempted tackles.
With the South African out, it looks likely Ulster will turn to returning Ireland international Jordi Murphy for the game alongside regular flank duo Matty Rea and Sean Reidy.
Meanwhile, Ludik's unavailability will also be keenly felt by the squad given his reliability in the back three and his ability to cover both full-back and wing.
Ludik has quietly been one of Ulster's more consistent performers this season, leading the back three in tackle percentage with an 84.85% success rate going into last weekend.
As well as that, the South African-born also led the team with 6.18 metres per carry, while also beating nine defenders and making eight clean breaks in 11 games.
While Ludik's absence will be somewhat covered by the return of Ireland superstar Jacob Stockdale this weekend, his versatility off the bench will be greatly missed.
Lock and club captain Iain Henderson will return to the team for Friday's game having sat for the last two games, but Rob Lyttle and Michael Lowry remain unavailable due to their respective injuries, as does long-term absentee Sam Carter.
Ulster are aiming to make it back-to-back wins when they take on Munster this weekend, with the province bouncing back to winning ways against Connacht last weekend.
Dan McFarland's side are second in Conference A of the Guinness PRO14, although they are 11 points behind leaders Leinster.
Belfast Telegraph Digital