JONNY Bell has been preparing his side for its toughest test in this year's United Rugby Championship campaign as they face Glasgow Warriors across the water this week in Scotstoun.
Bell, Ulster's defence coach, will know the challenges that lie ahead all too well as he was their attack coach for the 2020-21 season.
The Belfast-born former Ireland international said that the Ulstermen will expect a tough game against his former side, who currently sit one place above the province at second in the URC table.
"It's going to be a massive challenge for us but the boys are excited about it," said the former centre.
"The two teams know each other very well but we're excited to get over there and put our best foot forward."
Ulster will have their work cut out for them as Scotstoun Stadium has become something of a fortress for Glasgow, with the Warriors winning 21 of their last 22 games at the ground.
The boys will, however, be hoping to build on their back-to-back wins over current URC champions Munster two weeks ago and the Emirates Lions last weekend, which was their third home win in a row.
Glasgow currently has two points over the boys in white and red, but this week's game could be a crucial fixture going forward as Ulster could potentially have an ace in the hole in South African
World Cup-winning prop Stephen Kitshoff, who joined Ulster from DHL Stormers this pre-season and has now joined up with the squad.
Kitshoff will not be the first South African world champion to don the white jersey as Duane Vermeulen, a member of the 2019 World Cup winning side, received 34 caps for Ulster between 2021 and 2023.
Reporting for duty on Monday pic.twitter.com/Ib3kq1Yygf— Ulster Rugby (@UlsterRugby) November 18, 2023
Bell said: "It's great having Stephen around the place, he's a humble and grounded guy. "However, he's also a double World Cup winner and you don't become one of them without a certain amount of gravitas and character and you can see that in how he walks, talks and carries himself."
The Ulstermen have not been showing any signs of being damsels in distress though, with their only loss in their opening five games coming against Connacht, which was a tightly fought two-point defeat at that.
Despite the, at times, leaky defence, Bell still likes what he sees in terms of personnel and effort from the players.
"We're far from the finished article," he said.
"We're moving in the right direction and we've got a bit of bite about us, which has manifested itself in us defending the lead in the last few minutes of games."
A key component of this defence has been the communication between the players during the games.
Bell said: “It is one of the big rocks on which our defence is built, it is actually one of the rocks of the game really.
“Defensively, being able to verbally and physically communicate is very important.
“It’s great when I hear on the ref mic that there is a great level of communication between players.
“It’s a sign that they are in the present and encouraging each other to stay in the moment.”