‘Pienaar at peak of his game’

Former England flyhalf Stuart Barnes says Ruan Pienaar can steer Ulster to European Cup glory this season.

On Saturday, the Springbok scrumhalf scored all of Ulster's points against Leicester with a try, conversion and five penalties as they won 22-19 away from home to set up a quarter-final meeting with Saracens.

'There is one obvious reason Ulster are contenders for this year’s European Cup. His name is Ruan Pienaar,' wrote Barnes in The Sunday Times of London. 'The Natal-born scrumhalf gave a 24-carat display in steering Ulster to victory at Welford Road with a supreme show of goal-kicking, tactical acumen and persistent pressure without the ball.'

Barnes said Pienaar's kicking out of hand was particularly impressive.

'Pienaar, like all good Springbok scrumhalves, has a brilliant box-kicking game and he has a willing set of chasers. He also has the vision and heft to strike 70m diagonals at will … When Pienaar puts the ball in the air his team generally have a 50% chance of regaining it.'

Barnes believes the Irish club can go all the way this season.

'Ulster are not the prettiest team but in Pienaar they have a world-class player at the peak of his game, and what they lack in beauty they make up in intellect and spirit. Saracens should beware.'

European Cup wrap (Saturday)

European Cup wrap (Sunday)

Photo: Bryn Lennon/Getty Images

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