Johann Muller is a captain on a mission and with high standards for his Ulster side this season. Admitting his disappointment at the losses in the Rabo Direct Pro 12 last season, he confirmed that it was part of their aims to improve on that, as well as hoping to launch another strong assault on the Heineken Cup.
“You know losing for 10 games in the Pro 12, I thought it was poor. So that’s something we really want to put a drive on this year and we need to get more consistency in our performances and play some decent rugby week in week out… it would be wonderful to go one step better next year in the Heineken but ….. we’ve got to look after the right nows on a day to day basis… I think if you look too much into the future and to the Finals and Semi-finals, you’re going to miss out on the 15 put in front of you”
Muller has a concise way of speaking, and the focus he has on success is something that his Ulster side can draw from. Considering their inexperience in positions such as fly half, Muller has a lot of positives to take from the squad situation for that shirt.
“We’ve got the talented Niall O’Connor who’s making us more comfortable from Connacht… He’s a guy that has improved so much over the last 12 months so we’re excited to see him playing again. And then a guy like Paddy Jackson you know there’s a reason he played for Ireland Under 20’s…. why he was the captain of that side and…. why he played in a Heineken cup final at the age of 20 years old…he’s got great ability ….I’m very comfortable to have him at 10”
The ability of Ulster to be able to compete in both the Rabo Direct Pro 12 and Heineken Cup is something Johann Muller admits they were not well placed to do last season. But does he think they can cope this year?
“…. this year there’s a lot of the young guys and all those Under 20’s that are coming through and putting up their hands and playing some outstanding rugby, so I’ll probably be able to answer that question… in a couple of months’ time! But I’m excited, I’m really excited and I’m really positive that … we can compete in both competitions at the same time with the depth that we do have in the squad now. We’ve made a couple of great signings in the off season and the future of Ulster rugby is really good”.
The positive vibe coming from Ulster’s captain is unmistakable, and the belief Muller has in his squad is something you can really feel. The positives don’t stop there for this side though, what with the return of Tommy Bowe and Roger Wilson to the region. Muller expressed his delight in having experiences players such as Tommy to draw from.
“And for me as a captain as one of the leaders of the team it’s great to have a guy like that as a leader back, and whenever the pressure’s on you know that you can always go to those guys and that they will be able to help”.
With the new season almost here, Muller was keen to state how important he sees Ravenhill as a venue and what else he wanted to get out of his side.
“It’s fantastic, it’s a great place to play rugby at and I think it’s a huge place for other people to come and play rugby at but I also think it’s very important that we take that same mentality that we do have at Ravenhill, we take that on the road and to our away games, and that’s something that we spoke about in the pre-season”.
So is it possible for Ulster to take their home form on the road? If the rest of the team has the same drive as their captain, it shouldn’t be a problem, but in this ever competitive league it will be interesting to see if they can put their plans into action.