Franco Van Der Merwe relishing Ulster debut in home friendly against Exeter

Ulster's Franco Van der Merwe
Ulster's Franco Van der Merwe

After a long, hard pre-season South African lock Franco van der Merwe is looking forward to making his Ulster debut against Exeter at the Kingspan Stadium on Friday.

The former Lion and Sharks second row enjoyed the training camp in Portugal but is now looking forward to the start of the real action.

“I’m glad pre season is over; it’s two warm up games and you always take them seriously,” he said. “It’s my first game and it is always good to find your feet, I’m really looking forward to it.

“There has been a lot of talk about the game and I’m just looking forward to getting a game,” he added.

“Portugal was very good, we trained very hard and I was expecting to train hard, but we had one day off to look around.

“It was my first time in Portugal so I really enjoyed the sun and getting away from rugby a little bit and it was really good for the team.”

It may only be pre-season but van der Merwe is expecting a tough battle against Exeter.

“Exeter will come with a lot of momentum from the previous weekend when they beat Cardiff, they are a physical side and the game will be physical,” he said.

“For us it is about looking at different combinations and some young guys getting and opportunity to play. The result is not the be all and end all but it would be nice to do well in terms of combinations, first phase and one or two new guys getting into the team.

“With a new coach coming in there is new structures and a new sort of language, the way he thinks about the game might be different to what the team are used to.

“It’s a good opportunity for everyone to settle down and get the butterflies out and see if we are on the right track or to look at specific things.”

The former Springbok will call the lineouts against the Chiefs.

“I think one of the principles will be for us to keep it simple at the lineout and not to over complicate things,” he said.

“I think that’s when players get confused, when you’re tired you are maybe a second late so we’ll keep it simple and get everyone 100% on board. I think if you have all eight players understanding the structure in the lineout it makes the hooker, lifters and jumper work some much easier.”

Van Der Mawre’s former Sharks team-mate Wiehahn Herbst has also arrived in Belfast and he is thrilled to be linking up with his old friend.

“It’s funny, about a year ago myself Wiehahn and Louie Ludik all played for the Sharks in the same team, we know each other we’re all good friends and it is nice to have another foreign ear for us and hopefully that’s good for the team as well,” he added. “I’m really enjoying the fact Wiehahn is here.”