Ruan Pienaar warns against writing off Ulster

Ulster scrumhalf made big impact on return and is optimistic province can advance

Scrumhalf Ruan Pienaar scores Ulster’s second try against the Scarlets at the Kingspan Stadium. Photograph: Charles McQuillan/Getty Images

Scrumhalf Ruan Pienaar scores Ulster’s second try against the Scarlets at the Kingspan Stadium. Photograph: Charles McQuillan/Getty Images

 

It’s not often a player who’s just been the recipient of a yellow card receives a standing ovation but that was the case when the Ulster supporters rose as one to acclaim Ruan Pienaar’s departure after 76 minutes against the Scarlets.

The warmth of the overture offered a bespoke reaction to his return to Ulster colours for the first time this season following an injury sustained while playing for South Africa in the Rugby Championship.

Pienaar admitted: “It was really nice to get back playing again after three months; it was nice to get 76 minutes before the yellow card and it was nice to get a run out. Obviously there is a lot to work on fitness-wise and also I was a bit rusty in some areas but, all in all, I was pleased to play.

“I’m always hard on myself and I know I made a lot of mistakes. Service-wise, I probably gave a couple of bad passes and made a couple of wrong decisions. Hopefully I will be sharper over the next couple of weeks.”

Despite those words, the South African featured prominently in Ulster’s better moments. He scored one try, picking up a pop pass following a break by Darren Cave, and was involved early in Tommy Bowe’s try before then providing the scoring pass.

Negative thoughts

“It was disappointing with those first two results in the European Cup. I think we have given ourselves a good chance to still be in this pool. It’s in our hands now. We have three games left and hopefully we can get three big results.

“As a team we haven’t played as well as we have wanted but we have managed to grind out wins. We are still working hard on the small details. I think we have a great group of guys and we are heading in the right direction.”

Neil Doak has a number of injury concerns ahead of the trip to Wales, with Stuart McCloskey suffering what the province’s medical team described as “a significant elbow ligament injury”.

Specialist advice

Stuart Olding

South African tighthead Wiehahn Herbst and New Zealand number eight Nick Williams both sustained hamstring injuries.

Meanwhile, Mick Kearney is Connacht coach Pat Lam’s main concern ahead of the return game against Bayonne in France. The secondrow will have an MRI scan to ascertain the damage to an ankle suffered in the 42-19 win at the Sportsground.

Quinn Roux is available for selection despite a mild ankle issue, but Andrew Browne and Ian Porter are definitely out. Wing Niyi Adeolokun has resumed full training, as has Tiernan O’Halloran, who has yet to play this season.

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