Ulster out to dethrone Southern Kings in bid for seventh consecutive win

Five changes see Dave Shanahan come in at scrumhalf and the return of Marcell Coetzee

Ulster v Southern Kings 
Kingspan stadium (5.30, live on Premier Sports)

The Southern Kings have never won a match on the road since joining the Pro14 last season and in their two most recent matches in Ireland shipped over 100 points in defeats to Leinster and Munster. Ulster's remit is rather straightforward, to fill their boots points-wise as they keep up their pursuit of Benetton, the Italian side occupying second place in Conference B.

Ulster head coach Dan McFarland makes five changes from the last outing as the province looks to elongate a run that has seen them unbeaten in their last six matches in all competitions. Dave Shanahan comes in at scrumhalf – John Cooney is on the bench – in the only alteration to the backline.

Up front Andy Warwick, Ian Nagle, Matty Rea and Marcell Coetzee are promoted to the team, the latter playing his first match since Ulster's Champions Cup victory over the Leicester Tigers at Welford Road. Under-20 Grand Slam winner Angus Kernohan is included among the replacements.


Decent performance

The South African side produced a decent performance in their last outing, picking up a losing bonus point in defeat to the Cardiff Blues at the Arms Park.

Southern Kings coach Deon Davids isn't a big fan of the spring weather here. "We are expecting rainy and muddy conditions over in Belfast. It is very cold this time of the season in Ireland. So, underfoot it will be a bit slippery which will make the conditions a bit challenging.

“Looking back at our last tour, we will have to revisit how we approach it – the way we play our rugby in our back 50 [metres], and what we want to achieve in our front 50 [metres]. I think the guys are starting to understand the importance of having a good mindset and minimising our mistakes,” he said.

The home side will be looking to emerge from the game with a handful of points and no injuries as they look forward to Saturday week's Champions Cup quarter-final against Leinster at the Aviva Stadium. Iain Henderson (knee) is doubtful, while Will Addison and Craig Gilroy are not expected to be fit in time. They should certainly manage the former goal.

Ulster: L Ludik, R Baloucoune, D Cave, S McCloskey, R Lyttle; B Burns, D Shanahan; A Warwick, R Herring, M Moore; A O'Connor (capt), I Nagle); M Rea, N Timoney, M Coetzee. Replacements: J Andrew, W Herbst, T O'Toole, K Treadwell, C Ross, J Cooney, M Lowry, A Kernohan.

Southern Kings: U Beyers; Y Penxe, M Rokoua, T Kruger, B Basson; B Pretorius, S Ungerer; A Tshakweni, M Willemse, DJ Terblanche; A Van Schalkwyk, JC Astle (capt); H Brown, M Burger, R Lerm. Replacements: A Van Rooyen, S Ferreira, L Mguca, S Greeff, A Ntsila, R Van Rooyen, M Banda, H Klaasen.

Referee: L Linton (Scotland)

John O'Sullivan

John O'Sullivan

John O'Sullivan is an Irish Times sports writer