Gilroy aims to cap 150th Ulster game with historic Africa win
Ulster winger Craig Gilroy is calling on his team-mates to cap a great week in Port Elizabeth with a win over South Africa's Southern Kings in their Guinness PRO14 meeting today.
Gilroy returns to the starting line-up for the first time this season for the clash at Isaac Wolfson Stadium (1pm UK time), making his 150th appearance for the province.
The 26-year-old, who missed the start of the season with a back injury, is restored to the starting line-up as one of 10 changes to Les Kiss's side as he is forced to shuffle his pack due to international call-ups.
But Gilroy believes that an historic win in Ulster's first time in South Africa would leave a great memory of a very enjoyable week for the squad in what is unfamiliar territory.
"It's been a great week after a long journey travelling here," the former Methody star said.
"We've enjoyed each other's company and the weather's been great out here, 30 degree temperatures.
"But at the end of the day we're here for a reason, we're here to get the points and win this game and that would make it a really enjoyable week," he added.
It’s a big game for the Belfast man, who will finally make his 150th provincial appearance after several months of waiting following injury.
The prospect of the 150th game milestone hasn’t deterred Gilroy, who says he’s just happy to finally reach the landmark.
“I’m delighted, I’ve been sitting on 149 for about five or six months so it’s good to finally get it,” he laughs.
“I had that stint out where I was injured, had to do a lot of rehab to get back, but it’s great to finally be back and it’s an added bonus I can mark it with the milestone of my 150th.”
The injury itself was an agonising one, not only due to its location but also at the start of the season when most players want to make their mark in a squad.
And it’s especially frustrating, as Gilroy explains, whenever there’s a new coaching set-up to impress.
“The worst thing for me was the pre-season we had was probably one of the most enjoyable preseasons I’ve had with Ulster in my tenure,” he laments. “I felt I was in the best shape in terms of fitness. Then to be sidelined for nine weeks it was kind of frustrating, but I kept myself busy and stayed positive during training and my rehab.
“I just kept ticking over and the most important thing was to get myself right and be able to play again. Fortunately that happened and now we’re here.”
Ulster are entering into something of an unknown given this is their first ever meeting with the southern hemisphere side, meaning it could be an intriguing battle in Port Elizabeth.
Gilroy admits they don’t know exactly what might come their way but he believes that Ulster will be able to handle anything that’s thrown at them.
“We’ve had a good look at them and they have a lot of speed in their team, and they don’t kick much,” the former Ireland international explains.
“They’ll be unpredictable, and it’s an unpredictable place to play. So we’ll see, if we get our detail right and do what we have to do then the points will take care of themselves.”