Ulster skipper Alan O'Connor hailed debutant Duane Vermeulen after the Springboks star helped his new side to a famous victory over Clermont Auvergne.

The 35-year-old's integration into the camp was disrupted when he tested positive for Covid-19 last week but he was able to rejoin the squad in time to force his way into the starting line-up for Saturday's Heineken Champions Cup opener in France.

The South African No 8 made 25 hard yards from 12 carries in his 50 minutes on the field.

"It was great, he’s obviously an awesome player," said O’Connor after the 29-23 Pool A win.

"It was class to have him on board.

"Fair play to him, he didn’t have a lot of training time but he gelled in pretty well and he was a calm influence on the pitch, which was class.

"I’m looking forward to seeing how he gets on and looking forward to playing with him."

Trailing 20-19 to a resurgent Clermont with 13 minutes to play, what looked to be - on first viewing - a bog-standard knock-on actually ended up being the winning try for Ulster.

Closer inspection showed what appeared to be a Mike Lowry fumble under the posts was actually a Cheik Tiberghien knock-on, with the Clermont full-back also sin-binned. Nick Timoney was the man on hand to touch down.

"I wasn’t too sure but I was getting info from the boys and then we saw the replay and I was quite sure," said the Dubliner.

"It’s fine margins. That was obviously the game-winning moment.

"You can’t see everything so you have to pick and choose when to go to the ref.

"I try to be in the moment and not get caught up [appealing for everything].

"[As captain] you do have to pay more attention and do your best to get the right decision."

Ulster boss Dan McFarland confirmed that wing Robert Baloucoune, who suffered a shoulder injury just before half-time, will not be fit for Friday’s game against Northampton. However, lock Iain Henderson (hamstring) has not been ruled out.

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