Ruan Pienaar is determined to ruin the mood of his former supporters as he returns to Belfast when the Cheetahs face Ulster in a Pro14 clash on Saturday.
Pienaar, capped 88 times for the Springboks, played for Ulster from 2010 to 2017 before heading to French club Montpellier for two years. He never left Belfast because he wanted to but because the Ireland Rugby Football Union wanted homegrown players to be promoted and he has admitted that his wife, who has stayed home in South Africa, has been very jealous of him being back in their former home city.
Get the tissues 😢
Club legend? pic.twitter.com/HAgQk1tJdr
— PRO14 RUGBY (@PRO14Official) February 20, 2020
The 35-year-old has hinted before that he would like to return to Ulster in a coaching capacity one day and he didn’t rule out the possibility when asked the question this week.
‘It brings a lot of memories and good feelings when you drive into Belfast and my wife is very jealous that I am back here,’ he said. ‘We will see what the future holds. I am coming to the end of my playing career and our time in the next few years is in South Africa, but we’ll see.
‘Having spent seven years playing for Ulster it will be a strange feeling running out at the Kingspan Stadium wearing a different jersey but I am looking forward to it.
‘It’s been a while since I have played at the Kingspan, and I know how brilliant and supportive their supporters are, but it is obviously a very important game for us and we are desperate to get the result. We will obviously have to perform a lot better than in our last game, but training has gone well this week.’
The game Pienaar is referring to is the 36-12 defeat suffered in inclement conditions at the hands of Conference A front-runners Leinster in Dublin last week. The Cheetahs were outplayed in the first half but were much better later in the game and it is that last portion of the Leinster clash that Pienaar wants to use as motivation ahead of the battle with his old team.
‘We had a really tough outing against Leinster in bad conditions. Some Leinster players told me afterwards they had never seen it so bad in the years that they have played there. I think in the first half we were our own worst enemies. Leinster played well and we had not possession or field position but we gave away too many penalties,’ he said.
‘But you have to take the positives from it and in the second half we were much better. I may be wrong but we only conceded one try and scored two (in the last 25 minutes), our discipline was a lot better and we we kept the ball a lot better and put them under pressure more. So yes, a tough game if you look at the scoreboard but the way we ended was encouraging and we’ll try take that into this game.’
The Kingspan Stadium game is a big one for the Cheetahs in the sense that they are still within six log points of second-placed Ulster and can conceivably displace them if they win their remaining tour games and then have a good run of wins when they return to Bloemfontein. But given that it is the top three teams in the conference that advance to the knock-outs, of even greater concern is the Warriors, who have made up ground on the third-placed Cheetahs and are now just two points adrift.
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