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Pienaar: A Win Against Toulouse Would Really Change Things

Pienaar: A Win Against Toulouse Would Really Change Things

Ruan Pienaar says that he arrived back with Ulster last month both mentally and physically drained after two almost non-stop years of provincial and international rugby.

The South African scrum half, though, says he very quickly put any fatigue behind him, happy to be back amongst players he has come to admire, respect and call friends.

“I’m really happy now, and I’m fit and healthy, and it’s been like a whole new challenge coming back to the Kingspan,” admitted Ruan Pienaar.

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The Springbok has relished the new energy which director of rugby Les Kiss has brought to preparations, and as something of a perfectionist himself, he finds the attention to detail on and off the pitch chimes really well with him.

The visit of Toulouse in the European Champions Cup on Friday has provided even more reason to be excited, and Pienaar believes a sell-out Kingspan Stadium can help the province to overcome a French club he rates among the best in the northern Hemisphere.

“But I also truly believe that here at Ulster we have world class players, and after what might be called a ‘rocky patch’, I thought the way we played in the win over Edinburgh last weekend said a lot about the quality and mentality of the squad.

“The injuries to Iain Henderson, to Darren Cave, Dan Tuohy and Peter Nelson – all players at the top of their form – might have undone other sides, but we had players coming off the bench who knew exactly what had to be done.

“And with Paddy Jackson controlling things so beautifully, we played a smart game, especially against the wind in the second half,” added Pienaar, studiously refusing to mention his own intelligent performance behind a storming pack of forwards.

“And after what we as players thought was a flat, poor performance against Saracens last month when the crowd had nothing to feed off, I thought the Kingspan fans were tremendous for the Edinburgh game.

“It sounds like a cliché, but one of the things which makes me so proud to play for Ulster is the fans and how faithful they have been over the six seasons I’ve been here. Les and the coaches gave us a game-plan, the crowd sensed we were giving our all, and when we really needed energy we got it.

“I think it’s a myth that French sides don’t travel well, but we won’t be counting on that. We believe this group is far from over, we’ve just played one match so a win against Toulouse would really change things. I think there are going to be a few twists in our pool, and we all believe Ulster can and will qualify for the knockout stages.”

Pienaar oozes class both on and off the pitch, and his steely eyes seem to indicate that Toulouse should be wary of the man wearing the white number 9 shirt.