Heineken Champions Cup: Ulster will have 'our work cut out' against Clermont - Coetzee

Coetzee helped Ulster edge out Bath in a tense encounter at The Rec
Coetzee helped Ulster edge out Bath in a tense encounter at The Rec

Marcell Coetzee believes Ulster will have their "work cut out" against Clermont Auvergne in this Friday's Champions Cup clash.

Ulster welcome the French side to the Kingspan Stadium after opening their campaign with a thrilling 17-16 win away to Bath on Saturday.

"We'll have to keep it tight against Clermont," said Coetzee.

"You can see they're a championship side so we'll definitely have our work cut out for us."

Ulster held on to win at Bath by a single point in a closely fought pool three clash at the Recreation Ground.

John Cooney and Rob Lyttle scored tries for the province before Jacob Stockdale made sure of the win with a brilliant interception to stop Bath scoring a late try.

"It was a great result," said Coetzee, who missed out on South Africa's World Cup triumph due to an ankle injury.

"It helps with momentum. The European Cup is a tough competition so you want to get momentum under your belt.

Cooney scored 12 of Ulster's 17 points against Bath
Cooney scored 12 of Ulster's 17 points against Bath

"Going into this game this weekend, it helps with the confidence and we're looking forward to another great challenge that awaits us."

Coetzee says he was pleased with how Ulster defended against Bath but admitted they needed a 'little bit of luck' to get over the line and get their European campaign off to a winning start before hosting Clermont, who beat Harlequins 53-21 on Saturday.

"I think one of our strengths against Bath was our defence," he said.

"That translated to a lot of points for us and I think we need to step that up and grow as a team against Clermont."

Coetzee admitted luck played a part in Saturday's win but praised Stockdale, whose match-saving interception provided a fitting climax to an absorbing game.

"Sometimes you need a little bit of luck, especially playing away.

"We thought we had it in the bag then all of a sudden they came back, attacking us, but it shows you the resilience of Jacob to make that fine read and help the team."

'Henderson is a natural leader'

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Iain Henderson on keeping up with the Brexit saga during Ireland's World Cup campaign

Iain Henderson got his Ulster captaincy off to a winning start with the victory over Bath in what was the lock's first appearance following Ireland's World Cup campaign.

Henderson's time in Japan may not have panned out as hoped, but Coetzee feels he has the 'aura' to take the Ulster captaincy in his stride.

"He is a natural leader.

"The presence and the aura that he brings to the side - you feel confident when you're playing with a guy like that. He's developed well over the years.

"It'll be an interesting role for him to grow into as the season progresses, but the guys really definitely feed off his leadership."

Ulster sweating over injured trio - Peel

While edging Bath in such nail-biting fashion undoubtedly boosted confidence, they may be without injured trio Jack McGrath, Sam Carter and Rob Lyttle for the visit of Clermont.

Ireland loosehead McGrath was forced off after just eight minutes while fellow summer signing Carter also left the pitch before the end of the first half.

Lyttle was replaced by Louis Ludik after 63 minutes and Ulster assistant coach Dwayne Peel admits all three will may miss out on featuring against Clermont.

"We're unsure over their availability, but they might struggle this week," said Peel.

"Jack has been excellent and Sam, too, they're two senior players who have come in and added to the group's experience.

"They'll be disappointed with picking up a few bumps, but Eric [O'Sullivan] and Alan [O'Connor] came on at the weekend and they were excellent for us."