Francois Pienaar looking forward to Ravenhill

Former Springbok World Cup winning captain in Ireland to launch One Young World Summit and take in Saracens game against Ulster

South Africa’s 1995

World Cup

winning captain

Francois Pienaar


is enjoying a dual purpose visit to


. Yesterday afternoon, he spoke in his capacity as a One Young World

counsellor – the 2014 One Young World Summit takes place in Dublin from October 15th-19th – at a lauch in Trinity College and tomorrow evening he'll be at Ravenhill.

As a member of the Saracens board, his loyalties in the Heineken Cup quarter-final between the English club and their hosts, Ulster, are predetermined. There is also the small matter of Pienaar having been a player/coach at the London club and for three years (2000-2002), he also took on the role of chief executive.

An engaging presence, he recounted a tale of his introduction to the English club, to illustrate just how much the sport has changed.

He smiled: “When I joined Saracens in 1996, at the first training session they gave me a shovel. I thought it was a joke. We were training on a public park, Bramley Road, and we had to go and take the dog poo off the field before we trained.”

There is a large Southern African presence at Saracens, from CEO Edward Griffiths, a good friend of Pienaar, through the board of directors and the playing personnel but it is two of their countrymen in Ulster colours, Ruan Pienaar and Johann Muller, the former Springbok captain is invited to talk about.

"He (Ruan Pienaar) is just so talented. His dad (Gysie) was the backs coach at the 1995 World Cup that we won. He was like Serge Blanco, running the ball from the back. You never saw him play because of the years of apartheid when he was not allowed to play (Test rugby).

“Ruan has that X factor. He can do something special, unusual. Saracens have to clamp him down”

He's also effusive about Muller. "He is respected at home. If you just look at his style, his mannerisms, the way he conducts himself, young kids aspire (to be like him). He played for a very successful outfit (Sharks) and that breeds success.

Respected and revered
"It is nice to read the (South African) players are respected and revered in the competition. In South Africa we are very blessed with talent. So much comes through and some of them never get the opportunity (to play for the Springboks).

“The game is now a global game, people should get their heads around it; when you are working in a global industry you are going to get offers to work in other countries. The nice thing is to read that they have made a big impact.”

Pienaar confirmed he is heading for Belfast. “Yes, I am definitely going, my mates are coming from London, so we are looking forward to it. It’s going to be a special occasion.

“I think it is going to be the game of the weekend in terms of the Heineken Cup. It’s going to be very tense and if both teams play well it is going to be a close encounter. “

John O'Sullivan

John O'Sullivan

John O'Sullivan is an Irish Times sports writer