Christian Lealiifano, John Cooney and Jean Deysel are set to be handed their debuts in Ulster’s clash with Toyota Cheetahs tomorrow evening.
Cooney and Lealiifano occupy the half back positions while Deysel lines up alongside Chris Henry at flanker. Henry captains the side. A big welcome back to Marcell Coetzee who is named at No.8 after a long lay off due to a shoulder injury.
In the back line, an interesting call sees Tommy Bowe occupy the 13 jersey despite Darren Cave being named on the bench. Bowe joins Stuart McCloskey in the centre. Possibly the biggest decision has Charles Piutau starting at fullback and Louis Ludik start on the wing despite Piutau playing his best rugby last year on the wing. Andrew Trimble completes the backline.
Ulster’s forwards are still relatively strong despite several absences and injuries. Rob Herring assumes hooking duties with Kyle McCall and Wiehahn Herbst either side of him as props. Robbie Diack and Alan O’Connor retain their second row spots from the match against Northampton while Reidy only makes the bench behind Deysel, Henry and Coetzee.
Cheetahs are depleted going into their first match of their debut season. Inspirational captain Francois Venter, back rowers Uzair Cassiem and Oupa Mohoje and winger Raymond Rhule all miss out due to international duty. Listed as a replacement, Cecil Afrika will be a familiar to those who follow the Sevens Circuit. He has represented South Africa 7s since 2009, scoring over 1,000 points in the process winning a bronze medal at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics and gold medal at 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.
Opening matches are often cagey affairs and this will be no different. Ulster are under pressure to silence the ever-increasing doubters and an opening loss would do nothing but drain confidence. As stated in the season preview article, it’s a decisive season for Les Kiss. He has recruited his own coaches and Ulster fans are expecting a more successful season than last.
The FRU Predicts: A typical tight and cagey opening season affair that will not be pretty on the eye. Both teams will try to suss each other out in the first quarter but I do expect Ulster to triumph. Ulster by 5 points! #SUFTUM
|Ulster Rugby||Toyota Cheetahs|
|Charles Piutau||15||Sergeal Petersen|
|Andrew Trimble||14||Rosko Specman|
|Tommy Bowe||13||William Small-Smith|
|Stuart McCloskey||12||Ali Mgijima|
|Louis Ludik||11||Makazole Mapimpi|
|Christian Lealiifano||10||Clayton Blommetjies|
|John Cooney||9||Shaun Venter|
|Kyle McCall||1||Charles Marais|
|Rob Herring||2||Jacques du Toit|
|Wiehahn Herbst||3||Johannes Coetzee|
|Robbie Diack||4||Justin Basson|
|Alan O’Connor||5||Reniel Hugo|
|Jean Deysel||6||Paul Schoeman|
|Chris Henry (c)||7||Henco Venter|
|Marcell Coetzee||8||Niell Jordaan (c)|
|John Andrew||16||Torsten van Jaarsveld|
|Callum Black||17||Ox Nche|
|Rodney Ah You||18||Tom Botha|
|Matthew Rea||19||Rynier Bernardo|
|Sean Reidy||20||Gerhard Olivier|
|David Shanahan||21||Tian Meyer|
|Peter Nelson||22||Cecil Afrika|
|Darren Cave||23||Ryno Benjamin|