Jean Deysel and Marcell Coetzee start in the Ulster back row for the season opener against their South African countrymen the Cheetahs as the new look Pro14 kicks off tonight.
The Bloemfontein based side arrive in Belfast top of the Currie Cup standing but Ulster are ready to match their physicality with a couple of their own South African powerhouses who are reunited for the first time in three years.
“We share the load well and that’s what you need in a game like this, we haven’t played together for we think 2014, we’re very excited to get together on the park again and enjoy it,” said Deysel.
“That’s why we start playing rugby, sometimes when it gets hard, gets tight, in the professional game, you can overlook that, I really think this weekend is a day to enjoy it.”
“Marcell is fired up and ready to go, it’s been a tough year, that’s part of rugby, part of the game we play.”
“He’s eager, he’s fit and strong and he’s going to be a massive player for Ulster if he carries it on.”
The Cheetahs have won five of their six Currie Cup games and Deysel isn’t quite sure whether getting them first up is a good or bad thing for Ulster.
“They’re mid season back home, so it’s definitely a tough one, they’ve played a few games, they’re top of the log in the Currie Cup home so it’s a tough one but it’s a great start for us.”
“We’re hungry to go and I’m sure they’ll be looking forward to getting going in a new competition.”
“They’re a brilliant side, sometimes you don’t know what you’re getting because they have such good individuals, they’re mid-season, they’re well gelled, they’ll come here with a great unity.”
“Sitting in the meeting room on Monday for analysis on a Cheetahs game was quite different, it’s exciting.”
“I’m excited to get stuck in. It’s a new competition for them and it’s a new start for us so both sides will be looking forward to it.”
Despite two defeats in pre-season nobody is unduly worried at the Kingspan.
“There’s a new way we are approaching stuff and there’s a couple of new combinations, there’s a lot of the young guys in the team as well.”
“We’re trying to do new things but I suppose a lot of your biggest lessons will come out of a loss.”
“Sometimes when you win you brush things under the carpet that still need a little bit of work, that’s when you tweak stuff, we learned a lot and hopefully we take the good stuff into Friday.”
“Pre-season never fun but it’s what you need, we did a lot, covered a lot basis, and looked at a lot of new things.”
“I really think we had a good pre-season despite the friendlies and it’s just to take that and build into Friday.”
“There’s a different buzz this whole week among the guys, this is why you play rugby, pre-season is the hard work that you have to get through, these are the weeks you live for, the games you want to play, there’s definitely a different buzz, we’re excited.”