Ulster should be finishing teams off - Ludik
Though defeat has been dodged in the last three games, Ulster arrive at their Champions Cup double-header in a less than ebullient mood.
The memory of the tanking they took at La Rochelle, in their last European outing in October, is still fresh, as is what has unfolded since. A home Guinness PRO14 defeat to Leinster followed along with misfiring wins over Southern Kings and Benetton Treviso before last weekend's draw at the Dragons.
Heading to the Twickenham Stoop with this as a backdrop for the first of two pivotal European games with Harlequins was never exactly part of the plan.
And though Quins have lost their first two pool games, the Premiership side are at home and feeling good about themselves after turning Saracens over last weekend. Quins won't be obliging Les Kiss' side - whose wobbly set-pieces and suspect defence have been visible - by rolling over.
Even Louis Ludik's normally upbeat outlook has taken a bit of a hit at Ulster's recent inability to comfortably beat teams they should be seeing off with ease.
And when quizzed on whether Ulster's chopping and changing their midfield combinations - since beating Wasps in mid-October, the province haven't retained an identical centre pairing for two games running - has contributed to them conceding 15 tries, Ludik attempts a robust defence of the issue.
"I wouldn't say that it's down to the centres," said the 31-year-old South African who has been flitting between midfield, wing and full-back so far this campaign.
"The only time the centres are really together (defensively) is off first phase and after that everyone works together.
"There's never a perfect game and you always struggle with something and, at the moment, we might be struggling a bit with defence."
Next up is wondering why Ulster have been failing to close out games when leading with the last-minute rescue over Benetton Treviso and failure to do likewise last week in the drawn Dragons clash being the most obvious cases.
"We should be finishing off teams and putting them to the sword, so that's a massive focus for us," said Ludik.
"You learn a lot from it. At the end of the day, though, when you are leading games you have to finish strong."
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