Ulster are set to be without the services of backrow Jean Deysel as they enter their season finale.
The South African has been impressive in the run of three straight wins which has rescued Ulster’s disappointing PRO14 season.
But what appears to be a serious knee injury is set to rule him out of not only this weekend’s away game at Munster but any further play-off games this season.
Head coach Jono Gibbes confirmed the knee injury yesterday but was unable to give a final diagnosis as they await further details from medical staff.
With Matt Rea recovering from a leg injury it could be an opportunity for out of favour Chris Henry to make a return to the side for the final shoot-out of the regular league campaign.
More concerning was the withdrawal of influential scrumhalf, John Cooney at the break of last Saturday’s bonus point win over Glasgow in Belfast.
He is expected to be available this weekend.
Gibbes said: “Cooney was just withdrawn at half-time, wasn’t feeling particularly great so they’re just monitoring him.
“They’re following HIA protocols but I’m not sure it’s an HIA, they’re just taking it easy with him and we’ll have a look at him later in the week.
“To be honest, we’re a bit banged up, we’ve had a pretty light day today. Thursday will be our main hit-out and we’ve left a few guys off their feet on purpose at the start of the week.
“Just to give us a bit of time to assess and rebuild a bit of energy and I think Saturday’s effort was pretty taxing for the guys.”
Iain Henderson will be available again after his late withdrawal last weekend after his wife had given birth to a girl.
And Irish international winger Craig Gilroy is back in the mix for selection once his suspension ends tomorrow.
He was sanctioned by the IRFU and Ulster over a text message to Stuart Olding that emerged in evidence during a recent court trial in which Olding and three other accused were acquitted unanimously by a jury.
Three straight wins, two of those with try-scoring bonus points, has kept Ulster in the mix for the final shakedown for a third place finish in PRO14’s Conference B.
They are four points behind Edinburgh and if the Scots, who have a derby against Glasgow at Murrayfield on Saturday, fail to take any match points, then a bonus point win for Ulster over Munster would see them overtake Edinburgh.
That would put them into the PRO14 final series with a play-off, probably away to Munster and a potential away semi-final against Glasgow.
But it also guarantees them an automatic place in next season’s European Champions Cup.
If Ulster were to fail to achieve third place they are currently looking at a home play-off against Ospreys on the weekend of May 18 with the prize a place in the Champions Cup next season.
Munster were beaten in the semi-finals of the Champions Cup in France by Racing 92 on Sunday, the Top14 side going through to meet Leinster in the final.
It is anticipated Munster may look to rotate players this weekend given they are already into the PRO14 final series.
Gibbes acknowledged the challenge of going to Limerick.
“It’s a big challenge for us. You know, we had to regroup a little after Saturday, get a bit of energy back and save it up because it will be ferocious for sure on Saturday,” he added.
In respect of Munster making changes Gibbes said Ulster needed to be ready for anything.
“I don’t know, to be honest. I actually thought Glasgow would have done it the other way round, but they brought a full team here so I don’t really know,” he said.
They have a good spirit, the recent tour of South Africa has got to be good for them, obviously a disappointing result last week but I wouldn’t want to second guess them.
I just know, having been down there previous times, you have got to have the attitude right before you go there.