I've got plenty more still to give Ulster, vows Cave
Ulster head coach Jono Gibbes has praised the attitude of Darren Cave this season after the 31-year-old centre was rewarded with a new contract.
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The Holywood man had appeared to face an uncertain future at the province as he entered into the final months of his deal but, off the back of an impressive performance in last week's win over Edinburgh, inked a one-year extension.
With Stuart McCloskey and Luke Marshall more often than not Les Kiss' and then Gibbes' preferred midfield, Cave hasn't always played as much rugby as he would have liked this year, but his coach has been impressed with his application, especially when helping young players like Johnny McPhillips through games.
"Stu and Lukey have been soldiers for us in midfield," he said. "They've been really good value and they bring a lot of energy. We've put Cavey on the bench, but we haven't been able to take those two off because they've been doing such a great job.
"It's been tough for Cavey, but he's a guy who has reacted really well and been a consistent contributor.
"Speaking to (assistant coach Dwayne Peel) about our game management and helping Johnny (McPhillips) with a voice, we brought Cavey in and you have to admit, he's not short on talking."
With over 200 Ulster outings to his name, Cave himself is pleased to be staying put.
"I'm really pleased to be staying on for another season. This month marks 11 years since I earned my first Ulster cap and I still feel that I have much more to give," he said.
"We have a lot of work to do but the guys are committed to improving both as individuals and as a collective. Hopefully we can go and finish this season strongly and then bring that through to the new campaign.
"I believe the future of Ulster Rugby is bright and I'm really looking forward to being part of that."
And Cave has kept his place in the team for tonight's crucial hosting of Ospreys at Kingspan Stadium (7.35pm kick-off).
He is part of an unchanged backline after Louis Ludik overcame a back problem to keep his place alongside Charles Piutau and Jacob Stockdale in the back three.
In the pack, though, Gibbes has made alterations, including changing up three of his tight five. Props Callum Black and Ross Kane have been restored to the starting side to pack down either side of captain Rory Best, while Kieran Treadwell is back at lock.
Nick Timoney has to make do with a place on the bench as fit-again Sean Reidy is in at No.8 with Iain Henderson at six and Jean Deysel looking to build on his impressive showing last week in the openside jersey.
With Rodney Ah You and Wiehahn Herbst out, Tom O'Toole, who had an encouraging debut last week, will get another chance on the bench.