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'It really hung in the air for the lads' - how Steven Kitshoff inspired Ulster

By URC SA
Steven Kitshoff of Ulster during the United Rugby Championship at Kingspan Stadium in Belfast. (Photo By Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

Ulster’s remarkable win against Leinster in the Vodacom United Rugby Championship New Year’s match has raised eyebrows among teams in the Championship, but it isn’t surprising to hear that much of the galvanising spirit came after a serious talk from their Springbok acquisition Steven Kitshoff.

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Ulster became the first side in 19 months to win at the RDS Stadium, shattering the invincible image of the Irish juggernaut side and underlining their own hopes of title contention this season.

Coach Dan McFarland revealed that it was none other than their high-profile off-season signing, former DHL Stormers skipper Steven Kitshoff who focused the team’s attention to the task at hand in the build-up to the game.

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Kitshoff took charge of the team’s scrum meeting, holding court and setting the tone for a festive derby period that the Belfast side will long remember.

After Duane Vermeulen’s influence the previous season, Kitshoff has proven to be a hit since joining his new club after the Rugby World Cup.

“He is a double World Cup winner, he lands with a huge amount of credibility full stop. There are two things. He spoke to us at a scrum meeting two weeks ago, he was very specific about what he said and it really hung in the air for the lads. I thought that was excellent,” Mcfarland said.

The Ulster coach added that Kitshoff backed up his words with actions on the field and the fact that he is always a threat for a jackal (turnover) that makes him such a valuable player for the Irish side.

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“But it is his stuff around the park, he carries well, is involved in really good defensive plays, he is always a jackal threat, just moves really well around the park.

“He is not afraid of saying how it is, if things need to change or somebody needs to do something he will point it out. He is a double World Cup winner and he is captain of a URC-winning team. Steven is a top man adding a lot of value.”

With the thrilling one-point victory, Ulster moved into fourth spot in the URC log, just six points behind Leinster.

And given the impact that Kitshoff has already had on the team, as the challenges get tougher down the road, it is likely that he will feature more prominently in Ulster’s campaign.

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United Rugby Championship

P
W
L
D
PF
PA
PD
BP T
BP-7
BP
Total
1
Leinster
9
7
2
0
34
2
Benetton
9
7
1
1
32
3
Glasgow
9
6
3
0
31
4
Ulster
9
6
3
0
28
5
Edinburgh
9
6
3
0
26
6
Bulls
8
5
3
0
26
7
Stormers
9
5
4
0
26
8
Ospreys
9
5
4
0
25
9
Connacht
9
5
4
0
24
10
Munster
9
4
4
1
24
11
Cardiff Rugby
9
3
5
1
21
12
Lions
7
3
4
0
19
13
Scarlets
9
2
7
0
12
14
Zebre
9
1
7
1
12
15
Gwent Dragons
9
2
7
0
10
16
Sharks
8
1
7
0
8
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