Ulster ready to unleash 'beast' Marcell Coetzee
South African flanker Marcell Coetzee's long-awaited debut for Ulster could be against Edinburgh on 10 February.
Ulster's Director of Rugby Les Kiss has confirmed the 25-year-old flanker is nearing action after suffering a serious knee injury last summer.
"He looks great, looks strong, you can see he's a beast and a very good player so I'm looking forward to him putting the Ulster jersey on," Kiss stated.
"He will be ready for the first game during the Six Nations period."
Fellow Springbok Ruan Pienaar is also targeting making his return in that home fixture against Edinburgh. Kiss said he will be out for another four weeks after having minor knee surgery last week.
Craig Gilroy has recovered from injury ahead of Sunday's European Champions Cup game against Exeter Chiefs.
Robbie Diack and Alan O'Connor are also in contention to return from injury for the vital fixture.
Gilroy suffered an ankle injury during the Pro12 win at Cardiff in early December, one of just three away wins for Ulster this season.
Ulster have received criticism in the wake of seven defeats in the last 11 matches in both Europe and Pro12 competition.
Kiss said the players are aware of the criticism and will handle the mounting pressure.
"You're going to have opinion around the edges. Whether it's always informed or not is not the question but you can't sit here and be precious.
"You've got to be able to stand in front of the criticism in its varying forms, or the feedback, and deal with it.
"There will be external pressure and we constantly put ourselves under pressure.
"The group do feel the internal pressure more than anything and that's because expectation is high and we know the expectation from the outside, particularly our great supporter base expect from us, so it's not lost on us.
"We know we're not far away."