Ludik: Ulster owe fans in 'must-win' Exeter showdown
There is nothing like clarity of purpose to focus the mind. So Ulster may find a heightened concentration from the knowledge that anything other than a win away to Exeter Chiefs on Sunday will result in a pool stage exit from the Champions Cup for the third consecutive season.
It really is that simple for Les Kiss' team, who will arrive at Sandy Park to face an Exeter side with nothing but pride to play for.
Ulster sit in third place in Pool 5 on nine points, behind Bordeaux-Begles on head to head, having lost to the French side in October.
Bordeaux entertain runaway group leaders Clermont early Sunday afternoon, so Ulster will have the benefit of knowing where they stand before taking the field.
Clermont will confirm their progression to the quarter-finals with a win, but also clear a path for Ulster to supplant Bordeaux in second before Ian Madigan's side come to the Kingspan Stadium for the final pool game six days later.
Last week's Pro12 loss away to Scarlets typified Ulster's stuttering campaign as they coughed up a seven-point half-time lead, and full-back Louis Ludik said a huge improvement is required to keep their European ambitions alive.
"We've got a point to prove. It will be another big challenge. It's a must-win game. We owe the supporters a lot and we have to go out there and make them proud. It's games like this that you want to be involved in," he said.
When the sides met in Belfast in October, it took a late Paddy Jackson drop-goal to secure a 19-18 for Ulster, and their inability to secure a bonus-point may well come back to haunt them. Last year Ulster finished second in their pool on 18 points and still failed to make the last eight.
Exeter may have no interest left in the competition but they are in third in the Aviva Premiership so Ulster, according to Ludik, will have to dig deep to take maximum points.
"We know Exeter will want to finish the pool stages strongly," said the South African.
"Anything can happen, particularly in this competition because all the teams are capable of beating each other. We'll not give up without a fight."
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