DFP Header Area

Hard graft not cash the key

Guinness PRO12 Editor

3 Sep 2010

David Humphreys insists hard work and not money will be the key to success for Ulster this season.

The Irish province have bought in a trio of high-profile South Africans this summer, with the additions of Ruan Pienaar, Johann Muller and Pedrie Wannenburg sending out a clear signal as to Ulster’s intentions.

But Ulster operations director Humphreys knows it will take more than big-money buys to start winning trophies.

"The players we have brought in are proven international quality but, as much as we want short-term results, we also recognise it may take longer to get everyone to gel. And, history has proved across every sport that you can't buy success," said Humphreys.

"We believe we've recruited very well this year and I believe this is the best Ulster squad that's been assembled.

"We have made big changes on and off the field this summer. We are going to have a new stadium, we're re-developing our training facility and the chief executive is taking us in a much different commercial direction than before.

"We've made the signings and there is a huge sense of optimism around Ulster rugby.

"We're all enthused and excited and we will go out there to win games and do whatever it takes."

Both Muller and Wannenburg start the Round One encounter with reigning Magners League Champions the Ospreys on Friday night as Ulster attempt to improve upon a disappointing season last time out.

And while outsiders may simply see big names when assessing the South African signings, Humphreys insists all three Springboks were specifically targeted to improve the team both on and off the field.

"We have recruited for two reasons; one to get a better team on the pitch…and two to bring in top players who have played at the very highest level who can also develop a culture here," added Humphreys, who was a Magners League winner the last time Ulster lifted silverware in 2006.

"We've a lot of players who have no experience of sport or life outside Northern Ireland. We identified players and specific areas who would add to the squad we have.

"We brought in Muller for his leadership and work at the line-out, Wannenburg because we understand under the Irish management programme that Stephen Ferris will be unavailable and we felt we needed to improve at scrum-half so that's why we chose Ruan.

"For example, Andy Goode says Muller is the closest thing he's seen to Martin Johnson in the way players respond to the way he leads and Wannenburg has come from perhaps the best club side in the world.

"This recruitment wasn't done on an ad-hoc basis. We don't know how they will react to northern hemisphere rugby but they have been good in our pre-season friendlies so far. We feel they are suitable for this league."

Having been trophyless for the past four years, Humphreys is determined to end that drought sooner rather than later.

An eighth-place finish in last season’s Magners League table suggests his side have a long way to go but the ex-Ireland star is convinced things are about to change at Ravenhill.

"There is always going to be different landmarks when you are dealing with history. Certain teams will be judged against that and I accept the challenge.

"Our team understands we have not performed for the last four years.

"But I believe we have closed the gap on Munster and Leinster and the players have the chance to show that. All the ingredients are there."