Andy Warwick says Ulster primed for mini tour in South Africa

Ulster's Andy Warwick.
Ulster's Andy Warwick.

Ulster head into their mini tour of South Africa full of confidence as the Dan McFarland era has kicked off with two wins in the opening two matches.

Scrum half John Cooney kicked last minute penalties to beat the Scarlets and Edinburgh, Ulster head to the rainbow nation joint top of Conference B with Benneton.

Ulster start with the two-game trip at the Southern Kings on Sunday before facing the Cheetahs five days later and with both South African sides looking for a first win, prop Andy Warwick is hoping the Kingspan outfit can make it four from four.

“Two tight wins and I think we did well, especially at the end of those games, it’s obviously a better feeling when you’re winning,” said Warwick.

“It comes down to us working hard to each other and we’re not giving up, I think if we keep doing that, the performances will get there eventually and hopefully this week will the start of that.

“In training Dan has us working really hard, really sharp and intense sessions, I suppose you just that bring that into the games, Hopefully it works for us.”

Ulster needed a late try to beat the Kings away last year in a 43-36 epic and Warwick is worried it could be another free-scoring encounter at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium on Sunday.

“They’re a crazy side, they play from anywhere and you have to be ready for everything.

“They’ve got quick backs and, look, we’ll have to control it and go a wee bit better than we did last year, hopefully we’ll do that this time.”

Bloemfontein on Friday week offers a difference challenge being 4,577ft above sea level and Warwick hasn’t played at altitude since his school days.

“I did it at school but obviously school is a lot different - hopefully we’ll acclimatise ok.

“It was with Ballymena Academy and I can’t really remember, there were two teams we played up in that direction, we won there so these are good memories from that.”

McFarland wants Ulster to play a new expansive style of rugby, which was summed up by Craig Gilroy’s try against Edinburgh last week and the props are having to adjust their games.

“He wants to play a quicker, faster game and he has said ‘if the ball is there you have to play it’. He wants us playing a quick game, he wants the ball a lot quicker so that’s now on the forwards to get to rucks quicker so that we can get the backs quick ball.

“It’s more challenging as if you’re playing quicker you’re out working with the team and it’s great, as with Scarlets there you could see that they were on their knees and we were out-working them a few times, so it’s better putting pressure on the opposition than feeling it yourself.”

Warwick has been impressed by young loose head Eric O’Sullivan’s contribution so far this season.

“Eric’s a good player and he’s improving especially in the scrum, he’s one of the fittest props that I’ve seen so fair play to him, I’ll just have to match that fitness.”