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Ulster can flourish by focusing on own game, says Wiehahn Herbst

By Jonathan Bradley

If Wiehahn Herbst was a more ego-centric sort, he'd perhaps chuckle at how his return to the Ulster side has brought about an upturn in fortunes.

For all the talk of Ulster's inconsistency this year, they've won three in a row, each with a bonus point, since the burly tighthead returned to the side.

But while the mood in the camp has improved dramatically since his comeback, coinciding as it did with taking 15 points from 15 available, interviews with the 28-year-old remain much like his playing style - no nonsense and strictly business.

As such, his take on the bonus-point win over Zebre last time out strays little from the party line.

"There were a lot of positives to take out of it," he said of a performance that was very much good enough to get the job done in Parma, but not of a quality to impress onlookers.

"It was good that we got five points out of the game.

"Tommy Bowe got his 150th cap, David Busby made his debut and scored a try and it was good to have Jared Payne back on the field.

"So there were a lot of positives for us to take out of the game but there are also a lot of work-ons and that is what we are trying to put into place for this weekend.

"As a pack I think we did well. The scrums were solid, we scored a maul try, and it is always a challenge for us as a pack against the Italian sides because they like their scrum and their driving mauls.

"I think we stood up well as a pack but there are a lot of work-ons for us.

"We gave away a few silly penalties and there were some dodgy scrums that we didn't have control of."

Herbst's own outing in the Italian sun was short - he was subbed little over half an hour into the contest - and he admits his comeback from a series of season-disrupting injuries remains a work in progress.

"Personally, it has been good to get back into the game," he said. "The first one was against Edinburgh, then off the bench again against Glasgow the week after.

"I have a few work-ons after the Zebre game for sure.

"Especially for me as a prop, in that kind of game it takes a few seconds for you to feel your legs again.

"It is games like that you just have to push on through."

Ulster will find themselves in a similar position taking on Treviso this week.

With only Zebre between their fellow Italians and the foot of the Guinness PRO12 table, Ulster will again know that even a convincing win won't necessarily impress.

Although the message from the players this week would perhaps indicate they are more results focused than anything else, they will again be expected not to only win, but do so playing the kind of rugby that lit up the Kingspan Stadium when they were last there against Glasgow Warriors.

With that in mind, and with another talented back-line set to be fielded, Ulster's pack will know they have to win the battle up front against what will be a physical visiting unit.

"As forwards we expect that every game, it doesn't matter who we play," Herbst said.

"The focus is more on us. We know we have a quality back-line so, if we can give them good ball, they will do what they can.

"I think we can expect the same from the Italian side this weekend, it is going to be a physical forward battle for us.

"But they are two different teams and they bring different things to the table, for us as a team it is important to focus on us and the basics."

While the PRO12 will be the only show in town this weekend, the focus of the rugby world of late has been centred on the Six Nations with Herbst having kept an eye on the progress of Joe Schmidt's Ireland.

The native South African will qualify for his adopted home on residency this summer, with a contract that now runs until 2019, and has been name-checked by the national set-up in the past.

For now, his goals involve an Ulster jersey.

"I have watched some of the Ireland games and they are doing well, as are the England side, so it is going to be interesting to see who is going to win the Six Nations," he said.

"Playing though is the last thing on my mind at the moment.

"For me, it is just to get back playing for Ulster then to get my match fitness up so I can play better for longer."

Ulster will have one of their current Irish internationals return to provincial colours this weekend with Andrew Trimble set to play some part on Friday.

The Kingspan captain hasn't played for Ulster since the defeat to Bordeaux-Begles in January but made a return to action in the national side's Six Nations win over France last weekend.

His comeback will continue against Treviso, where Craig Gilroy and Jared Payne should also feature, although Iain Henderson, Rory Best and Paddy Jackson will all be held out by the Irish set-up.

Back-rower Marcell Coetzee will return, however.

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