No margin for error for Ulster against Edinburgh says Louis Ludik
Guinness PRO14: Edinburgh v Ulster (Friday, 7.35pm)
LOUIS Ludik says there is no margin for error in tonight's PRO14 clash with Edinburgh at Murrayfield as Ulster continue their attempt to salvage something from a desperately disappointing season that is threatening to go from bad to worse.
The word 'pressure' features frequently in the South African utility back's answers when contemplating a game in which the province will be looking to avoid a fourth straight defeat.
Ulster simply have to win in the Scottish capital if they are to have any chance of securing a place in the knock out stages of the competition but, more realistically, to keep in contention for a European Champions Cup play-off.
They currently sit fourth in the Conference B standings, a position they must maintain to be in a position to avoid the prospect of playing in the second-tier Challenge Cup nest season.
Ulster have never failed to qualify for Europe's premier tournament but defeat tonight and that record will be under serious threat with Benetton Treviso lurking ominously just a point behind in the table.
Ludik's inclusion in the starting XV for the Murrayfield game is one of seven changes from the side that lost 35-17 to Cardiff Blues a fortnight ago in what was a third consecutive loss for Jono Gibbes' men.
Rory Best makes his first appearance since leading Ireland to Grand Slam glory last month and will captain the side which includes debutant Tom O'Toole alongside him at prop.
Darren Cave and Ludik replace Luke Marshall and Craig Gilroy, who was not considered for selection, in the back-line while Matthew Dalton, Matthew Rea and Jean Deysel are drafted into the pack.
"Sometimes when a person is really under pressure, they perform. Maybe, it's how the human brain works," said the 31-year old.
"When you're really under the pump that's when you really have to focus when you're job is on the line and you really have to perform.
"It can be a way to get the best out of yourself and the team. For us, it's must-wins, every week is a final now.
"Whoever gets the opportunity to go out and play has to take that opportunity and do their best for the province and for the squad."
Edinburgh won the corresponding game at Kingspan Stadium 17-16, courtesy of a last-minute drop goal.
Since then Richard Cockerill's side went on to win four PRO14 games on the bounce before losing 20-6 to Cardiff at Murrayfield in the Challenge Cup last Saturday.
The Scots have plenty to play for with a PRO14 semi-final spot and qualification for Europe's top-tier, which comes with it, at stake tonight.
"Murrayfield is a big empty stadium, not like a packed Kingspan with it's nice atmosphere. We're going to go out there and really be focused on our game and really take it to them," Ludik added.
"At the end of the day, it's still in our hands but we have to take it and we have to win.
"Obviously, we'll look at a lot of the Edinburgh-Cardiff game and see what we can do. They're a very good side so we have to use all of our strength to go and beat them down there.
"After 12 years, I've had my fair share of pressure, it's part of rugby. I enjoy it, that's why you play professional rugby although it'd be nice to win every weekend and be pressure-free.
"But all we can focus on is on the field, each gym session, each training session and take that onto the field.
"If the ball doesn't bounce our way, then there's nothing we can do about that, but whatever we can control ourselves, that's what we need to control and take advantage of."