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Derby with South Africa flavour

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Munster's Gerhard van den Heever during a press conference ahead of Friday's Guinness PRO12, Round 9, match against Ulster

Munster's Gerhard van den Heever during a press conference ahead of Friday's Guinness PRO12, Round 9, match against Ulster

SPORTSFILE

Munster players, including Pat Howard, Sean Dougall and Gerhard van den Heever, right, warm up during squad training ahead of Friday's Guinness PRO12, Round 9, match against Ulster

Munster players, including Pat Howard, Sean Dougall and Gerhard van den Heever, right, warm up during squad training ahead of Friday's Guinness PRO12, Round 9, match against Ulster

SPORTSFILE

Munster's James Cronin carries a tackle bag during squad training ahead of Friday's Guinness PRO12, Round 9, match against Ulster

Munster's James Cronin carries a tackle bag during squad training ahead of Friday's Guinness PRO12, Round 9, match against Ulster

SPORTSFILE

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Munster's Gerhard van den Heever during a press conference ahead of Friday's Guinness PRO12, Round 9, match against Ulster

It's the first of the multiple Irish derbies heading into the festive period but there will also be a strong South African presence at Thomond Park this evening with nine players from there will renew acquaintances.

One of them, Munster winger Gerhard van den Heever, said that anyone who has been in Ireland for a time appreciates the tradition and extra bite to a derby match.

He is one of four South Africans in the Munster side with short-term signing Pat Howard starting his first game beside him while up front World Cup winner BJ Botha and the impressive CJ Stander will lead the way.

Botha, of course, will be playing against his former club when he takes on an Ulster side with five South Africa-born players in their ranks.

Louis Ludik, Wiehahn Herbst and Franco van der Merwe will start while Irish internationals Rob Herring and Robbie Diack are on the bench.

But van den Heever said the derby clashes are special with bragging rights up for grabs along with points.

"The Irish derbies are always a game of a different class because you are playing against guys competing for the Irish team so everyone is bringing their 'A' game and it is just going to be unbelievably hard and physical game."

Munster lost both league games to Ulster last season with the 19-17 loss at Thomond Park in May a particularly sore one.

"Yes, I think it is a thing we want to correct this weekend because, at the end of the day, it is unacceptable to lose at Thomond Park and especially against Ulster a fellow Irish side, you can't lose at your home ground and I just think we want to make the Limerick crowd proud again," added the 25-year old winger.

Munster, who have secured more points on their travels than at Thomond Park this season, are looking to continue their winning run of six games in all competitions and go into their back-to-back Champions Cup games with Clermont Auvergne on a positive note and van den Heever is looking forward to it after recovering from injury.

"A couple of weeks ago, I got a little foot sprain and stuff. I didn't think it was too serious and it kept me out for a couple of weeks, but I am looking to correct that this week."

Irish Independent