Ulster Rugby: Steven Kitshoff exit talk won't distract players - Iain Henderson

Ulster captain Iain Henderson believes the province will still see the best of Steven Kitshoff despite his uncertain future.

Kitshoff only arrived last November, weeks after winning the Rugby World Cup for a second time with South Africa.

It has been reported that the 32-year-old could return to the Stormers this summer after only one season at Kingspan Stadium.

"I know he's an ultra professional," said Henderson.

The Ulster captain added: "We'll be expecting nothing different from him working through this week and looking forward to an exciting game at the weekend."

Defeat against his former side in Cape Town last weekend was just Kitshoff's 12th game in Ulster colours, of which the side have won four and lost eight.

Despite the mixed results, Henderson believes the prop has been an asset since his arrival only five months ago.

"He's been brilliant for us. He's been brilliant for a lot of young lads in that scrum environment, around the park," said Henderson.

"He's been filling the boots that he's put on the international field before.

"We've seen him getting over a load of good balls, carrying well, being unbelievable in his chop tackle and defence."

Speaking before the United Rugby Championship final in June last year, Kitshoff had called the contest his "final (Stormers) game for now".

"I can always come back to the Stormers and I will always keep that door open," he added, before his side's loss to Munster in the league decider.

Since then, the financial pictures at his current and former clubs has changed significantly.

Western Province Rugby Football Union completed an equity deal with the Red Disa Consortium in March.

Ulster, meanwhile, have been dealing with well-documented financial constraints and posted losses of more than £900,000 last season.

Fly-half Billy Burns has so far been the biggest name confirmed to be leaving the side this summer with the former Irish international poised to join Munster for next season.

More players will follow at the end of a campaign where both head coach Dan McFarland and CEO Jonny Petrie have also departed.

Amid such uncertainty, Henderson does not see talk of Kitshoff's exit being any distraction ahead of the resumption of European action this weekend.

Ulster will take on Montpellier at the GGL Stadium on Sunday afternoon in the last-16 of the Challenge Cup.

"There's a huge amount of speculation that goes on all over the place," added Henderson.

"Not only Steven's position or the players' positions but it comes with the territory of professional sport.

"I sat down and had dinner with Steven in the middle of last week, a handful of us.

"I don't see it being any issue that we can foresee or that we're going to read into too much between now and playing the game at the weekend."

This is Ulster's second time in the second-tier European competition with the province having reached the semi-finals in 2021 only to be beaten by Leicester Tigers at Welford Road.

But as they seek a first trophy of any kind since 2006, Henderson says now is not the time to be talking about winning competitions.

"Where we are at the minute, we have to take it game by game," he said.

"I'm not going to say we're going to go and win the Challenge Cup. Yes, it would be great to do that but I'm not going to get ahead of ourselves.

"We have a lot of things that need fixing before we go making statements like that."