Ulster failed to meet objective on South African trip reveals head coach Dan mcFaraland

Ulster head coach, Dan McFarland
Ulster head coach, Dan McFarland

Ulster failed to meet their objective on their mini tour to South Africa in failing to return with two wins, head coach Dan McFarland has said.

However, to still maintain an unbeaten run in the Guinness PRO14 after four matches in the campaign, does please the new man in charge at Kingspan Stadium.

Ulster showed great resolve to come from behind on more than one occasion and finally snatch a share of the spoils in a 39-all draw with Toyota Cheetahs on Friday night.

Coupled with the 28-7 win over Southern Kings five days earlier, Ulster returned from South Africa with seven points from the two games.

They did surrender their place at the top of Conference B - now trailing champions Leinster by a point - but they are the only side unbeaten in the section.

That will be truly tested this weekend when they face a trip to Thomond Park, Limerick to face a Munster side reeling from a shock loss to Cardiff Blues on the weekend.

McFarland was left disappointed with the draw in Bloemfontein even though it could so easily have been a loss, Henry Spieght crossing for a try in injury time and Billy Burns converting to ensure the game finished level.

“We’re disappointed we didn’t win,” McFarland admitted frankly.

“We came with the objective of winning, we felt we could and I still feel we should have won.

“But in the first half we didn’t play the territory game perfectly and we missed a couple of tackles, which meant we ended up in our half defending for too long.

“Overall, with a five-day turnaround, the injuries we suffered in the lead up to the game and in the first quarter of the game, and only having a limited number of forwards to cover in trying conditions for us, I was really impressed.

“Would I have taken seven points from the two games before we came here - no.

“Am I happy we are still unbeaten - yes.”

Ulster put themselves under pressure at the set piece and at the breakdown, two areas which have been under scrutiny.

“We can’t keep giving penalties away because it’s leading to yellow cards and we’re having to defend mauls with one man less,” explained McFarland.

“We’ve shown on occasions when we’re disciplined in that area, and when we have everyone on the field, we can deal with it handily, but not when we’re down a man.

“The focus for us is being disciplined in everything we do and making sure we don’t have to defend multiple mauls.”

Ulster will not want to give Munster a head start in Limerick, but certainly McFarland can be positive about the character shown against Scarlets, Edinburgh and now Cheetahs.

“We’ve had to come from behind on multiple occasions and we’ve done that.

“We’re still growing,” he insists. “I don’t think we’re close to being as good as we can be, so the pressure is to keep on them, on us, to keep getting better. I think we’re certainly making progress.”