Dan McFarland keeps faith with Ulster backline

Tom O'Toole and Eric O'Sullivan scrum down during training
Tom O'Toole and Eric O'Sullivan scrum down during training

Ulster have retained the same backline for their third hit-out in the Guinness PRO14 against Southern Kings in Port Elizabeth on Sunday (1.15pm).

It will be the first of two matches in South Africa, with Ulster facing Cheetahs on Friday night in Bloemfontein.

The backline has impressed in the two last gasp wins over Scarlets and Edinburgh and against the Kings it would be expected they would be able to cut loose, with much more expected from outhalf Billy Burns and winger Henry Speight.

John Cooney, who hit late penalties in both of those previous home wins, partners Burns at outhalf with Stuart McCloskey and Darren Cave continuing their centre partnership.

Will Addison and Craig Gilroy complete the back three along with Speight.

Alan O’Connor has been recalled to the team. He had captained the side against Scarlets but yielded to the bench against Edinburgh.

However, his steal at the restart when Edinburgh had taken a 29-27 lead proved crucial and Ulster were able to force a penalty for Cooney to snatch the win at Kingspan Stadium.

O’Connor is one of three changes made by head coach McFarland, with Tom O’Toole and Sean Reidy also coming in.

The promising O’Toole makes his first start of the season at prop, joining Andy Warwick and captain Rob Herring in the front row.

McFarland has named an inexperienced bench, with an average age of just 24 and 134 caps between a replacement line that includes teenager Angus Kernohan.

The Kings have made four changes for their first home match of the season after losing their opening two games against Zebre and the Dragons, although they did score four tries against the latter.

The Port Elizabeth side have brought in most-capped player Shalk Ferreira at loosehead prop, while Jon-Charles Astle will start at lock for Ulster’s visit.

Michael Botha comes in at full back in place of Michael Makase, with the other change in the backline seeing Godlen Masimla coming in at scrum-half.

SUNDAY’S LINE-UPS

Southern Kings: Botha, Penxe, H Klassen, B Klassen, Basson, Banda, Masimla; Ferreira, Willemse, Pupuma, Oelofse, Astle, De Wit, Burger, Ntsila.

Replacements: A van Rooyen, Vos, Forwood, De Wee, Lerm, R van Rooyen, Du Toit.

Ulster: Addison, Gilroy, Cave, McCloskey, Speight, Burns, Cooney; Warwick, Herring, O’Toole, O’Connor, Treadwell, Coetzee, Reidy, Timoney.

Replacements: McBurney, O’Sullivan, Herbst, Deysel, Rea, Shanahan, Curtis, Kernohan.