Ulster’s Billy Burns aiming for repeat of 2018 heroics against Cheetahs in South Africa

Ulster out half Billy Burns is aiming to make his mark in South African against the Cheetahs.
Ulster out half Billy Burns is aiming to make his mark in South African against the Cheetahs.
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Ulster out half Billy Burns is looking forward to returning to South Africa after his heroics in the Toyota Stadium earned Ulster a 39-39 draw against the Cheetahs last season.

Ulster were trailing 39-32 with the clock in the red zone before Henry Speight got over for a try and Burns kept his nerve to slot over the conversion under huge pressure.

“I hope it doesn’t take us that long this year; it was a tough game last year - it was the first time for me going out and playing at altitude and stuff,” said Burns ahead of Saturday’s Guinness Pro14 clash (5.15 BST).

“I think they’ve shown enough form to prove they’re a much better side now than they were then.

“We are expecting a really tough challenge over there; obviously we’re doing it the other way about this time which will hopefully freshen the legs that bit more for us, but it will be a huge challenge and one we’re hugely excited about.

“It was my first experience of last year: obviously in the Premiership you’re only going around England but it’s a great opportunity for us; to get over there and play two tough games but it’s also a good chance to bond as a squad,” he added.

“I’m sure there’ll be a few times where we’ll have little trips out as a team, that only helps with cohesion and it’s good it’s come early in the season because we didn’t go on tour in the pre-season.

“So this is like a mini tour, so we can go away, have some craic, enjoy each other’s company and hopefully get two wins along the way and come back a closer squad than we went out.”

After his move from Gloucester in the summer of 2018 Burns now feels an established part of the Ulster set-up and is hoping to produce more performances like the one against the Ospreys.

“I definitely feel more comfortable; I’m not a new boy anymore, I didn’t feel that way since after Christmas and stuff.

”We’ve just had a good pre-season, we’ve been really clear on what we want to do this year and how we want to play; we’ve added some great quality to the squad, both in terms of the coaching department and on the playing side of things.

“Last week we went into it with a clear gameplan and that’s all you want as a player, and especially as a ‘10’ who runs the attacking side of the game: it enabled us to be confident out there and when you have got front foot ball and the backs out wide with the pace and power that they do, it becomes a pretty easy job.

“I definitely feel more comfortable but again it wasn’t just down to a few individuals, it was the group as a whole,” said Burns.

“I thought we did a lot of good things (against Ospreys); as the game grew our forwards got into the game a bit more and our breakdown was a massive improvement on where it was last year anyway.

“We saw improvement on that in pre-season and when you’ve got quick ball as a fly-half you’re on the front and the defence can’t quite get set.

“There’s still definitely areas where I can improve on, defensive areas where I need to improve, and there’s always times where you could manage the game that bit better, but ultimately we got a good result from it and it’s always better learning when you’ve won a game than when you’ve lost.”