Ulster's fit-again Ludik ready to 'smash' Cardiff after injury return
Ulster v Cardiff Blues, Guinness PRO14 Championship, Kingspan Stadium, Saturday, 3.00pm
Getting back had been an all-consuming focus, so to get out on a rugby pitch again six months after badly damaging his hamstring was rightly a special moment for Louis Ludik.
The result was something else. A heavy defeat at the Scarlets wasn't how Ludik had envisaged his return to playing the game having previously been involved - and getting his injury - in last May's end-of-season win at home to the Ospreys, which at least guaranteed Ulster their place in this campaign's Champions Cup.
He also hadn't bargained on absorbing more damage having only just got back at Parc y Scarlets last Friday, though for the Irish-qualified South African this entailed having to leave the field temporarily to have a cut stitched.
"That first half when we held onto the ball, I was blowing then a little bit," admitted the 32-year-old utility back. "But whenever we lost the ball it was very tough."
Plenty to absorb then as Ulster prepare to host Cardiff Blues on Saturday afternoon, their last Guinness PRO14 game ahead of two weekends of back-to-back European action against, as fate would have it, the Scarlets.
For Ludik, home wins are non-negotiable, and getting the better of the Blues looks vital before heading back into Europe.
"We've got to see where we went wrong (at the Scarlets) and improve," he stated. "All teams are proud to play at home and you want to make it a fortress.
"We normally play well at home and you play better for some reason," he added, though Ulster have already been turned over at Kingspan Stadium this season by Connacht, who tasted victory in Belfast for the first time in 58 years back in October.
"It's just good to be on the pitch again and smashing a few guys in contact," he emphasised, though both Ulster and Ludik will be hoping to avoid having to defend just as much this week.
Winning this weekend is key, as is improving match-fitness without shipping another knock.
As Ludik pointed out: "Hopefully I can stay injury free and get a bit of game time."
Sounds like a plan.