Cave, who made his first appearance for the Province against the Border Reivers in April 2007, will start at inside centre, where he will be paired in midfield with Louis Ludik.
In the back three, Andrew Trimble returns to the starting XV on the left wing, with Craig Gilroy retained on the right and Jacob Stockdale shifting to fullback.
Peter Nelson is named to start at out-half, alongside scrum-half John Cooney, who will make his first return to Galway since joining Ulster from Connacht last summer.
In the pack, there are starts for Abbey Insurance Ulster Academy pair Matthew Dalton and Nick Timoney at lock and number 8 respectively.
Robbie Diack joins Dalton in the engine room, with captain Iain Henderson and Sean Reidy making up the back row with Timoney.
In the front row, props Andy Warwick and Wiehahn Herbst will scrum down either side of hooker John Andrew.
Former Ireland U20 out-half Johnny McPhillips, who has featured prominently in the Ulster A team’s recent British & Irish Cup wins, is in line for his first senior appearance as he is included among the replacements. Paul Marshall and Rob Lyttle will provide the additional backline cover, while Adam McBurney, Schalk van der Merwe, Ross Kane, Matthew Rea and Clive Ross are the forward options from the bench.
Ulster Rugby team to play Connacht, Saturday 23rd December at The Sportsground, kick-off 7.35pm (live on BBC NI & TG4):
(1-8): Andy Warwick, John Andrew, Wiehahn Herbst, Matthew Dalton, Robbie Diack, Iain Henderson (Capt), Sean Reidy, Nick Timoney;
(9-15): John Cooney, Peter Nelson, Andrew Trimble, Darren Cave, Louis Ludik, Craig Gilroy, Jacob Stockdale.
Replacements (16-23): Adam McBurney, Schalk van der Merwe, Ross Kane, Matthew Rea, Clive Ross, Paul Marshall, Johnny McPhillips, Rob Lyttle.