Ulster’s Rob Lyttle disappointed to miss out on South African challenge in Rainbow Cup
Ulster winger Rob Lyttle has expressed disappointment that he hasn’t been able to pit his skills against the top South African teams in the Rainbow Cup.
It was also aimed at helping the Bulls, Lions, Sharks and Stormers become acclimatised to northern hemisphere rugby before joining the newly-formed Pro16 next season.
However, due to Covid-19 travel restrictions, the South African squads were not allowed to set up base in the UK and are having their own mini tournament with Ulster facing Irish rivals Connacht and Munster, and travelling to Leinster tomorrow night to finish the competition with games against the Scarlets and Edinburgh.
“I’ve been lucky enough to have played against the Cheetahs away and it was a class experience going out to South Africa and a class experience testing yourselves against teams we’re not used to playing against,” said Lyttle. “It’s massively disappointing but we do understand it’s just not possible at this point in time.”
Ulster have lost their last three games - two in the Rainbow Cup and the European Challenge Cup semi-final against Leicester - and Lyttle admits it has been an unsatisfactory way to conclude the season after winning 14 of 16 league games.
“As a group we’re bitterly disappointed about the Challenge Cup and I know the Rainbow Cup has been slightly disjointed with the South African teams in and out, but I guess on a personal level we want to go out and put in a performance that we’re proud of and that people watching at home are proud of.
“The performance at Welford Road didn’t reflect the effort that was put in over the whole season and I’d be lying if I said we weren’t gutted.
“We’re trying to pick ourselves up but we’re not feeling sorry for ourselves.
“It’s not as big a deal as the Challenge Cup and the Pro14 season gone by but they are still interpros, they are still big games and games we want to win,” he added. “There are guys who are trying to push into the Ireland team and they want to get one over against the guys they’re playing against.
“It’s definitely still a big deal, Dan has got us well up for it and we’ve got ourselves up for it, and we’re all disappointed as a group and it’s not on Dan to get us up for this match.
“That fact that it’s an interpro means it very easy to get up for it.”
Ulster have lost their last five games against Leinster.
Lyttle said: “It’s no doubt they are the best team in the league and that it’s going to be a very difficult challenge, especially down there.
“There’s massive rivalry and guys are pushing for similar spots in the Ireland team and we take it very personally when we go down to play there.
“We want to put our best foot forward so we’re very excited, we love playing Leinster away as that’s the biggest challenge in our league.”
p Highlights of the British and Irish Lions’ series against South Africa are to be shown on terrestrial TV.
Channel 4 will broadcast footage from the three Tests against the world champions and will also provide live coverage of the pre-tour warm-up match against Japan at Murrayfield on June 26.
It will be the first time that Lions matches are shown on terrestrial TV since the 1993 tour to New Zealand.
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