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Kankowski rumours cause confusion as Ludik stays on

By Michael Sadlier

After a day of some confusion, one thing is clear - the speculation will only intensify further over the identity of the overseas back-rower on his way to Ulster next season.

Initial reports yesterday stated that South African Ryan Kankowski had signed up to replace the departing Nick Williams but then they were subsequently stated to be wide of the mark.

Ulster refused to comment other than to say the new signing would likely be unveiled in the next four to five weeks.

It is, though, believed that the back-rower is South African and could, like Kankowski, be playing his rugby in Japan - Springbok and Sharks player Marcell Coetzee being one such figure who fits the bill - but this is speculative, as are rumours that Wallaby star David Pocock may be coming after this year's Super Rugby campaign.

Ulster Director of Rugby Les Kiss has said that two "exciting" signings will be made public soon, though one of those will not be All Black back-rower Victor Veto who had been linked with a move here but has opted to join French club La Rochelle.

One South African who will definitely be at Ulster next season is Louis Ludik, who has signed a one-year extension which has been granted by special dispensation by the IRFU.

Ludik - who can play wing, centre and full-back - is one of four permitted non-Irish qualified (NIQ) players on the province's books but the IRFU have, in this case, altered their own rules and Ulster have been allowed to have a fifth NIQ for next season.

So, the popular 29-year-old - who arrived here in summer 2014 from French club Agen - will now stay on for a third campaign.

Ludik will now also become Irish qualified in summer 2017 - at the same time as current 'project' player Wiehahn Herbst - and it is believed that a powerful argument was made to Dublin in order to retain Ludik's services on the basis of what he could potentially deliver for Ireland.

Operations Director Bryn Cunningham said: "Re-signing Louis Ludik is fantastic. I want to thank the IRFU and David Nucifora (IRFU Performance Director) for allowing us to retain his services."

The news follows the announcements that Charles Piutau, Rodney Ah You and Kieran Treadwell will be linking up with Ulster this summer, in addition to the recent re-signing of Franco van der Merwe.

Meanwhile, Ulster A coach Alex Codling will return to London at the end of April after just one season here for family reasons.

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