Ulster Rugby vs Ospreys


South African international, Franco van der Merwe arrived at Kingspan Stadium with no preconceptions as to what life in Belfast would be like, but with his name consistently etched on the team sheet and two tries under his belt already, it certainly looks like he is settling in well…

forwards are really powerful especially in the first phases; they bring a lot of go-forward ball for their backs. So for us to counteract that, it will be a team effort, everyone performing well and doing their job, getting the basics right but showing that we can also execute the details.” With his calm nature and leadership qualities, it is safe to say that Franco is settling well into life on the pitch at Ulster, but how is he getting on off the pitch? “We are really enjoying Belfast, the weather has been kind to us and the people are really friendly. The facilities here are world class which makes it so much easier to come to work every day, I enjoy every single day, and the players make it so much easier for my wife and I. The family circle of other wives and girlfriends make it easy for us to fit in, we are a few months in now and I would say we have settled well, we are really enjoying our time here. “The highlight so far for me has been the crowd, the Ulster fans are really passionate about this team. Against Dragons there was so much rain but still all of these people came out to support us. It is amazing to see them all every week and the way that they sing when you run out onto the field, for me that is something new, I did not expect that – It’s amazing! Also the way the crowd goes so quiet when we kick to post, this is totally new to me. So Ulster definitely have some traditions in terms of the fans and the history of this ground, and I really like that, it is something to be proud of and when you run out and you think that you are tired - you are driven to give that bit extra for the fans.”

The 31-year old lock and his wife have been making the most of their time in the northern hemisphere by taking a trip to New York during the autumn international break… “We went to New York for a week and tried to get a bit of sun,” says Franco. “A few players had made the trip also so we met up with them, we did a lot of sightseeing, not too much shopping, just all the touristy things and taking in the sights of the city.” Following a week off, Ulster are straight back into PRO12 action against league leaders Ospreys this evening… “It has been a good week,” explains Franco. “All the guys are fresh after the break, all the niggles are gone and everyone is back training well. Preparation and the intensity of training has lifted, so despite not having the internationals we have a good strong side who are ready to get out there. We have been focusing on getting the basics right but also running through the details, we have been working on building the tempo, the attitude and the physicality of our game this week heading into Ospreys. They are a tough side who are sitting top of the league so we need to put in a good performance this weekend. “Having guys away on international duty is a double edged sword for us – it’s great that it creates the opportunity for the younger or new guys in the squad to play and get experience in the PRO12 or even in Europe in a few weeks’ time. But on the other hand we are missing a core group of players with a lot of experience so it’s even more important that we are focused and training hard after having a week off.” “Ospreys are a physical side up front, they try to keep play simple but they really work hard for each other. You can see that they are a team who are well coached and the





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