There was mixed news on the injury front for Ulster as they named their 28-man squad for the two-match mini-tour of South Africa.
Assistant coach Dwayne Peel is delighted to have Springbok loose forward Marcell Coetzee in the travelling party but Ireland backs Will Addison and Stuart McCloskey miss the trip.
“Great to have Marcell back, initial disappointment for him really, I think he went away hoping to go to the World Cup with South Africa and picked up an injury so, ultimately, disappointing for him but he’s been really positive coming back, it’s great for us to have him back, he’s such an influence in our squad and good to have back in training,” said Peel. “They (Addison and McCloskey) are in rehab back to fitness, we’re probably taking it week-by-week for them, they won’t travel with us this week but they are not far away.
“Two lower-leg injuries, just strains. Marty Moore as well, he picked up a leg injury so he’s in rehab, so he won’t be travelling to South Africa.
“Wiehahn Herbst will join us in South Africa as cover for tighthead just for the two games as it stands.”
First up in South Africa are the Cheetahs and not only will Ulster have to deal with their dangerous backline, the game in Bloemfontein will be played at altitude on Saturday - but Peel isn’t over duly worried.
“It’s a factor when you go to Bloemfontein there’s no question but it’s not something we’ve spoken about to be perfectly honest with you, it’s not massively on our radar,” said Peel. “We understand what it is, the majority of the guys played last year as well so it’s just par for the course when you go there, it’s not a factor really in terms of our preparation, the S&C guys might do a few things but it’s not been a massive driver for us.
“We’re under no illusion that it’s going to be a very difficult game, with the form of the Cheetahs, they’re probably the form team at the minute to be perfectly honest and they played a competition before coming to ours.
“They put 48 points on a good Glasgow side last week, so we’re expecting a very, very difficult challenge and the boys are excited about it really.
“We’re coming off the back of a decent win last week, we played some decent stuff but there’s some stuff we have to work on but I think it’s going to be a different beast, going out there this week.”
Ruan Pienaar scored one of the Cheetahs’ seven tries against Glasgow last weekend and added 13 points with the boot and Peel knows he’ll be a huge danger to his former club.
“He’s gone back to the Cheetahs, he’s been in good form, his Currie Cup form has been good, he was in good form last week, I wasn’t here when he was here but I’m sure the guys will be friendly enough with him,” said Peel. “Looking forward to playing against him as I’m sure he’s looking forward to playing against Ulster.
“I think his form has been good, he’s obviously a danger and something we’ve spoken about in review and preview as you can imagine.
“So, yeah, look forward to it but there’s plenty of other dangers in that team, to be fair with their form in the Currie Cup and also in the first round of the PRO14.”
Ulster will follow up Saturday’s game at Toyota Stadium against Cheetahs by facing Isuzu Southern Kings on October 12.
ULSTER: (forwards) John Andrew, Sam Carter, Marcell Coetzee, Rob Herring, Greg Jones, Ross Kane, Adam McBurney, Kyle McCall, Jack McGrath, Alan O’Connor, Eric O’Sullivan, Tom O’Toole, Matthew Rea, Sean Reidy, Clive Ross, Kieran Treadwell. (backs) Billy Burns, John Cooney, Angus Curtis, Matt Faddes, Craig Gilroy, James Hume, Bill Johnston, Michael Lowry, Louis Ludik, Rob Lyttle, Luke Marshall, David Shanahan.