Belfast Telegraph

Home Sport Rugby Ulster

Springbok duo add another dimension to Ulster and the boss is delighted


By Jonathan Bradley

While the eyes of the Guinness PRO14 were on their newly added South Africans at Kingspan on Friday night, it was Ulster's own Springboks who made the most defining contributions.

The Cheetahs were certainly game, and troubled their hosts with an abundance of pace on the counter, but the 42-19 scoreline will have been a rude awakening for a Bloemfontein outfit ahead of what promises to be a logistically challenging season.

And while Les Kiss's men were not as comfortable as the score-line suggests - the province were actually outscored in the hour of the match played with 15 on 15, but were ruthless during their opponent's two sin-binnings - the performances of both Jean Deysel and Marcell Coetzee were certainly a cause for optimism.

Having missed out on all but four games of his debut season in Belfast thanks to a pair of knee surgeries, Coetzee had the look of a caged animal upon release over his 50 minutes of action, bringing a physicality that the province lacked all too often last season. And, for a side who relied too heavily on Stuart McCloskey for gainline successes over the past 12 months, new signing Jean Deysel offering Coetzee a partner in crime for the rough and tumble certainly gave Ulster an added dimension.

"It certainly helps," said Kiss afterwards. "Particularly there was a really good moment when Marcell made a big carry and he was backed up by a good hit up by Jean.

"Those double carries can make a big difference. It gives you a chance to expose space and that power, it certainly helps.

"It can make a difference. You have to work to the space and be clinical with that too and we did that at the right times. Not every time, but enough to push the score."

While either would have been a fine choice - and indeed John Cooney, Chris Henry and Louis Ludik also impressed - it was Deysel who ultimately picked up the official man-of-the-match honours.

The man who arrived at Ulster this summer after a short stint at Munster last season, enjoyed once again teaming up with his former Sharks cohort Coetzee. "I think we shared the load quite well and the pack worked together as unit well," said the 32-year-old flanker. "It makes things easy when the backs give you go forward ball on the edges and you can do your part in the middle. It was a very active effort from everyone out there. We really had fun."

After a concerning pair of results in pre-season - Ulster shipped over 80 points combined to Wasps and Northampton Saints - Deysel was pleased to see the side's summer labours bear fruit when it mattered most.

As well as himself, Cooney and Christian Leali'ifano making their debut, it was also a first game for Kiss's new coaching team of Jono Gibbes, Dwayne Peel and Aaron Dundon.

"We are building on a team culture as well and I do think it went really well on the night," said the four times capped Springbok.

"We spoke on the week that we wanted a better start. In both our warm-up games we had a bit of a rough start. We actually we put a lot of emphasis on having a good 10 minutes in the first half and 10 out of the shed. I really think we did what we wanted to do this week

"We concentrated all week on the team effort and it is not just the 23 men on the team sheet, it is the guys who help on the week as well to put together a massive team effort."

Awaiting them this Saturday are Treviso, the Italian side who opened their own campaign with a resounding defeat at the hands of Munster in Cork.

Ulster have never lost in the Stadio Monigo - winning seven league games and a further fog-covered victory in the Heineken Cup - but the margins of victory have often been slender.

Deysel has already stressed the importance of backing up last week's win with another victory.

"it is going to be a new week with new challenges," he added. "We have to keep improving on the good stuff, take a good team to Treviso and hopefully build on this performance."

Belfast Telegraph

Daily News Headlines Newsletter

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox.


From Belfast Telegraph