Ulster tight-head John Afoa is backing fellow countryman Mark Anscombe to make a success of his coaching tenure at the club when arrives in the province next year.
The Heineken Cup finalists have appointed Ansombe as the successor to current coach Brian McLaughlin, who will switch his attentions to Academy and schools rugby from next season.
The appointment came as a shock to many rugby observers from within the betfair.com community, but Afoa says he’s delighted with the appointment.
“He coached me for a year when I left school and then I had him on and off for three years at Auckland,” he explained.
“I think he’s a great coach. Everyone talks about Brian being such a loss, but I think Mark coming in can maybe take things on by doing some things a little bit different.
“Mark’s going to come in and hopefully add a few things that are going to improve our game, improve our forwards and help us go even better come next year.”
Though Ulster have already started to plan for next season, the team still has a huge Heineken Cup date on this year’s calendar.
The Irish outfit qualified for the final of the prestigious competition thanks to victory over Edinburgh on April 28, and they will now face Leinster for the right to call themselves European champions.
It promises to be a close encounter between the two rivals, as reflected by the tight Heineken Cup odds offered by most bookmakers.
And success in the Heineken Cup would be an excellent way for Ulster to end the season, says Afoa, following a slightly disappointing RaboDirect Pro12 campaign.
“We didn’t get to where we wanted to be in the league, and that’s disappointing,” said the New Zealander.
“But we have an opportunity now to create a very positive memory of this season. All of the players are striving to turn the campaign into a positive.”