Knee injury ends Steven Kitshoff’s brief Ulster stay earlier than expected

South African loosehead prop will head home to undergo knee surgery

In a season already cratered with problems both on and off the field, the damage being shipped at Ulster shows no sign of easing up as marquee signing Steven Kitshoff will now not feature again for the province.

The double World Cup winner, who had already hit the club with a significant body blow through his planned return to the Stormers at season’s end after just one of his scheduled three campaigns in Belfast, will travel back to South Africa this week to undergo knee surgery.

His earlier than expected exit draws a line under Kitshoff’s brief – he arrived in November – and notably uneventful tenure at Ulster. The prop’s final appearance came earlier this month in the heavy defeat at Clermont in the Challenge Cup quarter-final where he picked up the issue which rules him out for any of the province’s four remaining regular season games in the URC.

With Ulster having slipped to 10th in the table and outside the playoff places – though only three points separate them from Friday’s mid-table opponents Benetton Rugby – losing Kitshoff leaves interim head coach Richie Murphy having to continue leaning heavily on light resources at loosehead prop.


Of further concern, centre James Hume looks to have played his last game of the season after picking up what was described by Ulster as “a significant knee injury” in the narrow and far from convincing win over Cardiff last Friday.

Hume was assisted from the field after just 19 minutes of play and he will now be seeing a knee surgeon.

Additionally, Jake Flannery (thigh), Nathan Doak (groin) and Tom O’Toole (ankle) are all also doubtful for Friday’s crunch encounter with the in-form Italians, while it is not certain if any of Rob Herring, Iain Henderson, Nick Timoney or Stewart Moore – who were all sidelined for Cardiff – are even fit to feature this week. Marty Moore remains as a long-term absence.