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Ludik feeling right at home as he hits Ulster milestone

The South African will make his 100th appearance for the province when they play Scarlets.

Ulster's Louis Ludik after last week's defeat of Clermont.
Ulster's Louis Ludik after last week's defeat of Clermont.
Image: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

LOUIS LUDIK HAS seen plenty of change during his time at Ulster. 

Now in his sixth season at the club, only 12 of the current squad of 44 players were there when Ludik arrived back in 2014. 

Ahead of winning his 100th cap in Friday’s Guinness Pro14 clash with Scarlets – who incidentally were also the opposition for his debut – Ludik admits he never really envisaged staying with the province for so long. 

“I don’t think so. I never knew what would happen,” he says. 

“You don’t plan ahead that long in rugby, you just play contract to contract and hope it goes well. It just comes along, and it’s great we’re there now, but when you get to a place you never think you’ll be there for four or five years, especially away from home. You don’t expect to fall in love with a place and make it your home and it be so special in the end. Obviously Ulster and Belfast has done that and it’s a very special place. It’s home for us now and obviously we’re enjoying it.”

The South African joined the province from French side Agen, and for now he envisages staying in Belfast when his playing career comes to an end. Not only does he love life in the city, he’s also enjoying the challenges on the pitch, adding that Ulster now has a more competitive environment to the one that met him when he arrived.

“There’s been so many changes [during my time here]. There’s a lot of skill going on, a lot of basics, that’s a main difference. In the gym, everything is mixed, there’s not only physical work going on, there’s skills going on the whole time, so the core and the real basics of rugby is being taught and being drilled so that we can be the best we can be. Basic skills, passing and catching, that’s the basics of rugby but we really try to be the best we can at those things. That would be the main difference, focusing on the core skills of rugby and trying to be as good as we can in those.” 

At 33, Ludik is currently enjoying some of the best rugby of his time with Ulster. Shifting between wing and full-back, his power on the ball and ability in the air was to the fore in last week’s Heineken Champions Cup defeat of Clermont. 

kingspan-competition-winners-enjoy-coaching-masterclass-with-ulster-rugby Kingspan competition winners enjoyed a coaching masterclass with Ulster Rugby senior players Jordi Murphy, Will Addison and Louis Ludik, as well Head Coach Dan McFarland in Kingspan stadium on Tuesday. Source: Presseye/Kelvin Boyes/INPHO

During his time in Ulster Ludik has worked with four coaches. That turnover could threaten to stunt a player’s development, but Ludik feels it has actually helped him become a more rounded player. 

“I think mentally, with a bit of experience, I’ve learned how to approach and adapt a bit more in regards to coaching, because every coach is different, every coach has different ideas in the way they see the team play and sometimes you have to fit into that mould,” he explains. 

“Sometimes it’s difficult, and if you don’t fit at all it can be tough, but trying to adapt your game and trying to understand what they’re trying to accomplish and the game plan they want to play, and adapting to that. Just mentally being able to adapt your game a little bit and try to understand, that’s a massive thing. When you’re young it’s easier, but when you’re older there’s a lot of bad habits and a lot of things you’ve done for years, and trying to change that can be tough. You have to get over that and try to adapt a bit more.” 

Ulster are currently in the middle of a monster run of big games. The meeting with Scarlets comes on the back of European wins against Bath and Clermont, with a December Heineken Champions Cup double header against Harlequins next up for the province. That precedes three inter-provincial derbies, which lead into the last two pool games in Europe. 

A win against a depleted Scarlets would be a welcome way of keeping the momentum going ahead of a huge few weeks. 

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“One of the points we touched on is massive, stepping away from Europe, even if it’s only one week in between and then Europe again,” Ludik continues.  

“It’s one of those games you need to focus on. The last two weeks have been massive, two grind out wins. We’re really on a high and we’ve got a lot of confidence, but we know the top team we want to be, we want to consistently play well and consistently beat the top teams, and we know if we slip for one second, at the back end of the season those four, five points make a huge difference.

“After a couple of years I’ve seen that. If you drop off in one game, it can cost you a home semi and maybe even a final, so it’s absolutely vital we focus on this game. At home it’s a must-win. ” 

Bernard Jackman and Murray Kinsella join Gavan Casey to discuss eye-gouging, Munster’s scrum-half situation, and the rest of the provincial news.


Source: The42 Rugby Weekly/SoundCloud

 

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