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Ulster must take action to rescue faltering season: Herbst

 

By Michael Sadlier

Things haven't exactly gone to plan for Wiehahn Herbst, and that has nothing to do with the postponement of tomorrow evening's game with Glasgow Warriors.

Now in his fourth season at Ulster, the former Sharks tight-head prop has yet to even experience knockout rugby thanks to injuries ruling him out of Ulster's PRO12 play-off defeats at Glasgow in 2015 and then again Leinster the following year.

And as for the possibility of some notable European success, one of the main attractions of switching hemispheres in the first place, that's not happened since the province lost their home quarter-final to Saracens in April 2014 several months before Herbst stepped off the plane in Belfast.

Then there was the chance of playing for Ireland. Herbst was signed as a 'project player' who would qualify for his adopted country after three years of residency.

That date passed last summer without many noticing and the former Springbok Under-20s player appears to be nowhere near registering on Joe Schmidt's radar.

And with Marty Moore joining Ulster over the summer, and with a view to possibly forcing his way back into Schmidt's thinking, Herbst is going to have a serious rival on his hands as he enters the last season of his current contract.

Herbst turns 30 this summer and though, in prop years, that is hardly a concern, he really could do with having a decent season here.

The problem with that, though, is that Ulster are stuck firmly in the doldrums and badly need to hunt down a PRO14 play-off place and also secure Champions Cup rugby for the next campaign.

It also doesn't help when you are coming off the back of a humiliating defeat - namely last Saturday's 34-10 mauling at the Scarlets - and now having to wait until the end of the month and a trip to Cardiff Blues before an attempt can be made to exorcise the memory of Parc y Scarlets.

"We'll just have to man up," said Herbst.

But when they return Ulster will be facing the possibility of three straight defeats from Jono Gibbes's first four games in sole charge.

And with that comes the unwanted baggage of potentially finishing outside the top three PRO14 play-off places - Ulster currently lie in fourth in Conference B and are five points behind Edinburgh - and then having a play-off just to retain a presence in next season's Champions Cup.

If that wasn't bad enough they might, for the first time, miss out altogether if Benetton - seven back with a better-looking five-game run-in - take fourth from Gibbes and his squad.

"It's obviously very disappointing for us that we don't get the results," said Herbst. "And, of course, every game from now on is a must-win for us.

"It's not difficult for us to regroup and we know it's just about going back to knowing what we can do and just executing better."

Meanwhile, the Danske Bank Schools' Bowl final between Belfast Royal Academy and Portadown College was postponed yesterday due to a frozen pitch at Campbell College. It has been rescheduled for today week at the same venue.

Belfast Telegraph

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