GUINNESS PRO12: Ulster’s Franco Van der Merwe seeks first success against Munster

Franco Van der Merwe
Franco Van der Merwe

South African lock Franco van der Merwe is hoping it’s fourth time lucky on Saturday as he looks for his first victory over Munster.

The former Springbok has faced the Limerick men three times and has suffered two defeats and a draw.

“I remember last year when we came very close, it was in the dying seconds we drew here and I think Jacko slotted a kick to get the draw. Then we lost there by four points, we got four tries but they got five,” said van der Merwe.

“It’s a bit frustrating but that’s not really our focus, we don’t live in the past and we’ve got a new focus and a new management set-up and we’ve just got to really focus on this game.”

Munster have lost their last three PRO12 games plus the back-to-back European clashes with Leicester and Van der Merwe knows Anthony Foley’s men need a reaction.

“It’s not going to be easy especially after they’ve lost five games in a row, that’s not the Munster we know,” he added.

“Unfortunately we’re facing them this weekend and the weather is looking bad and I think they’re going to be really up for the challenge.

“That’s Munster, they know how to bounce back and we respect that, we know we have to really front up this weekend and be ready for a really tough game with Munster.”

Ulster go into the game on the back of four victories, two of which were in the domestic competition and have moved them to fourth in the table – a win over Munster will put daylight between the provinces.

“We managed to win at Edinburgh which was good but against Toulouse we really played well but that’s behind us and we can’t really focus too much on that anymore,” said Van Der Merwe.

“Playing away in Connacht in Galway is tough and last year we had to fight hard to get the win. I think they’re number two on the log which shows how they’ve developed over the last couple of years and it’s always a tough game.

“I think for us to go down and get the win was really good for the boys.

“For us it is really just focusing on this game and thinking about play-offs and looking at the log

“We have to play well this weekend and we’ve got to keep our momentum going into the next couple of games.”

One of Ulster’s main weapons has been the driving maul of the lineout.

“It’s not a oneman thing it’s all eight, everyone is working hard and with Allen Clarke giving us all the information for the lineouts he’s been putting a lot of hours in,” Van der Merwe added.

“As a team whether it’s all the lineouts or other second rows, it doesn’t matter who runs the lineout they’re stepping into the system and executing it.

“From the hooker all the way back to the lifting and jumping everyone is buying into the system so far it’s been going well for us.”

Van der Merwe is hoping his second row partner Alan O’Connor can keep his rich vein of form going which has seen him emerge as a possible dark horse for the Ireland Six Nations squad.

“I really enjoy playing with him, he’s a really good second row and he’s one of those old school second rows he does all the tough work.

“He’s got a big engine on him and does his basics really well but for us it’s just about the Munster game this weekend. We don’t want to get ahead of ourselves by thinking about Irish squads or internationals.”

Van der Merwe could be up against 58-times capped Australian Mark Chisholm in the battle of the locks.

“I played in the last Munster game against him and a couple of times in Super Rugby,” he said.

“He’s a really good player and he made it quite difficult for us the last time we were there and he stole a couple of crucial lineouts, I’ve a lot of respect for Mark Chisholm.”