ULSTER Rugby are expected to confirm this week two signings for next season.
Outhalf, Niall O’Connor was linked with a return to Ulster several weeks ago, but neither his previous club, Connacht or Ulster have yet confirmed his arrival back at Ravenhill.
O’Connor is to come into the squad to replace Ian Humphreys (inset) who has moved to London Irish.
It is anticipated O’Connor’s move will be confirmed this week along with the announcement that Irish qualified hooker, Rob Herring, is joining from Western Province in South Africa.
A product of the London Irish academy which lists Delon Armitage, Topsy Ojo and Nick Kennedy as graduates, Herring spent two years with the Madejski Stadium club before returning to his native South Africa where he is currently plying his trade with Western Province.
With Andi Kyriacou leaving Ravenhill to join the Cardiff Blues Ulster are left with Rory Best, Nigel Brady and Niall Annett.
Best will be in New Zealand on Ireland’s three-test tour, and if he gets substantial game time will be ruled out of the first five Pro12 games next season as part of the management recovery period.
There are also tests in the autumn so Best is unlikely to see a lot of action for Ulster before Christmas.
Herring left London Irish last summer to join Western Province and was on the bench as the Cape Town outfit claimed their first ever Vodacom Cup with a 20-18 victory away at Griquas, he came on as a late replacement
The 22-year-old stands at 6ft 2 and weighs in at over 16st and is highly rated as an up and coming prospect in South Africa.
By signing two Irish Qualified players, Ulster have left themselves with one non Irish qualified player still to come in to complete the squad for next season.
There is a gap in the backrow and the name currently being linked to the position is South African Jacques Botes, who is a big friend of Ulster lock, Johann Muller and has played with him and Ruan Pienaar at the Sharks.
The 31-year-old has 101 caps with the Sharks since joining them in 2005, scoring 175 points.
He would tick several of the boxes Ulster are looking at since the departure of fellow South African, Pedrie Wannenburg to French Top 14 club, Castres.
p Ulster will be in Tier Two for next season’s Heineken Cup which should hopefully give this season’s beaten finalists a favourable draw when the pools are made on Tuesday, June 12.
Leinster are seeded number one and Munster are also in Tier One for the tournament draw along with French sides, Toulouse, Biarritz, Welsh team, Cardiff and England’s Northampton Saints.
The other tiers are:
Two – Clermont, Ulster, Leicester Tigers, Harlequins, Toulon, Edinburgh.
Three – Ospreys, Scarlets, Glasgow, Saracens, Connacht, Sale Sharks.
Four – Castres, Benetton Treviso, Racing Metro, Montpellier, Exeter Chiefs and Italian club to be confirmed.
No two teams from the same Union, except France, can be draw in the same pool.