Ludik scored a try in Ulster's defeat to Exeter last weekend.

Ludik targetting fullback slot with hopes of emulating Pienaar at Ulster

The South African left his home country after falling out of the Springboks picture.

HAVING LEFT HOME nation South Africa in 2013 to chase the European dream, Louis Ludik is now hoping to follow in the footsteps of compatriot Ruan Pienaar at Ulster.

The 27-year-old, who starts at fullback against Leinster in the province’s pre-season friendly at Tallaght this evening [KO 16.00], says Pienaar is an Ulster “legend,” as well as one of the major reasons he joined this summer.

Ludik spent last season with Agen in the French Pro D2, having signed for the club before their relegation out of the Top 14 at the end of the 2012/13 season. Despite a year of second tier rugby, the South African does not feel at a competitive disadvantage.

The Pro D2 is not that low quality,” says Ludik. “There’s a lot of skill, honestly that league isn’t that bad. There’s a lot of guys who in the future will play in the Top 14. If you see it like that, I wasn’t there that long. I don’t think it’s really a negative thing.”

The ex-Lions back, who also has experience at outside centre and on the wing, came to France from the Sharks in Super Rugby, where he had worked under former Ireland forwards coach John Plumtree.

Ludik’s decision to leave South Africa in the first place came after the realisation that “I wasn’t really in the mix with the Springboks.” He had trained with the national squad, and was capped for the Emerging Springboks in 2007, but foreign shores beckoned.

Louis Ludik Ludik can play fullback, outside centre or on the wing. Presseye / Darren Kidd/INPHO Presseye / Darren Kidd/INPHO / Darren Kidd/INPHO

“I always wanted to come to Europe, obviously it’s the place to be at the moment. Everybody just has positive things to say and obviously you get to see a bit of the world. In South Africa, we’re a bit isolated.

“My big objective was to get in a big club like Ulster. I was absolutely ecstatic when I got the news. The first day after I heard, Ruan phoned me and I said ‘I can’t wait to get there.’”

The fact that Pienaar is currently part of the Boks’ Rugby Championship campaign demonstrates that being in Europe is not always a signal that international hopes have been completely extinguished for a South African player.

Ludik agrees that he is giving himself an outside chance of being capped by playing at the highest club level in Europe.

“Definitely, there’s always the dream to play for the Boks. If I get that chance, I obviously won’t say no. It’s a better opportunity for me to play here, especially to play Champions Cup and the Pro12.

Rory Scholes celebrates scoring with Louis Ludik 22/8/2014 Ludik celebrates Rory Scholes' try with the wing during the clash with Exeter. Presseye / Darren Kidd/INPHO Presseye / Darren Kidd/INPHO / Darren Kidd/INPHO

“It’s a much better chance to play for the Boks,” continues Ludik. “If it comes, awesome, but I’m just here to enjoy my rugby.”

Ludik wears 15 for Ulster today, but spent much of last season in the 13 shirt for Agen. With Jared Payne’s move to midfield looking likely to continue this season, Ludik’s preference for the fullback slot is certainly useful for his hopes of starting important games.

My preferred position is definitely fullback. I’ve played fullback my whole life. The last couple of years, I’ve switched around. I really enjoy 13 as well, obviously you get a bit more ball and a little more defence.

“But at 15, I really like the high balls and I really like the pressure.”

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