The last piece of Ulster Rugby’s 2010/11 jigsaw will be put in place when Springboks superstar Ruan Pienaar finally reports for duty.
An AC joint injury, sustained at the start of August while playing in the Currie Cup in the black of Natal Sharks, caused concern as to when Pienaar (pictured below) would be fit to launch his career — which runs from September 1 — in the white of his new club.
Despite that starting date, Ulster had permitted Pienaar to remain with the Boks until the completion of their Tri-Nations campaign on Saturday, September 4 when they face Australia at Bloemfontein in what will be their final match of the 2010 series.
With that injury meaning Pienaar is no longer involved on that front, his arrival to take up his new challenge is imminent.
The fact Ulster followers have been counting the days to his touchdown since the May 27 confirmation that the South African had signed a two-year contract, means their — and his — wait is almost over.
Pienaar will not feel out of place when he gets here, of course.
He will be joining fellow-countrymen BJ Botha and Robbie Diack — both already established members of the Ulster squad — and Johann Muller and Pedrie Wannenburg whose massive impact since arriving during the summer has been wholly positive.
Significantly the newcomer played at Sharks with Botha and Muller and is a close friend of both.
With Pienaar confidently expected to maintain South Africa’s reputation as a country to have provided Ulster with top-class recruits, supporters of Brian McLaughlin’s team are really looking forward to seeing the world-class half-back on duty behind a pack boasting a mouth-watering quartet of his compatriots.
Pienaar’s four forerunners have set a standard for him to follow after instantly earning the respect and admiration of the Ulster players and public alike.
To a man, it seems, those who line out alongside the South Africans on the pitch or training ground, in common with those who watch them from the stands or terraces, hold them in the highest regard.
Ulster skipper Rory Best is among those loud in his praise of the Springboks for what they have brought to Newforge and Ravenhill.
“Bringing quality like that in really lifts the boys around them. It gives them an extra gear, an extra level of performance, that you didn’t think you had, to keep up with these guys,” Best enthused
“They bring a calm edge. Johann especially — just the way he runs the game, sees everything and knows everything — is great, while Pedrie is so aggressive.
“He just loves to carry and loves to tackle.”
With the skipper stressing that teams nowadays have to be able and willing “to go through 20 phases until gaps appear because opponents aren’t committing to the ruck which means you have to be strong as ball-carriers and efficient in cleaning out the rucks as well” he believes Ulster boast the personnel capable of doing that.
And the classy Pienaar’s inclusion behind a pack boasting so many around whom he is familiar, comfortable and confident — both on the field and off it — augurs well for the future at Ravenhill.
Clearly Ulster will do all in their power to ensure the smoothest possible transition and bedding in process for the man who is a proven match-winner on the biggest of stages and could just prove to be the biggest and most influential signature in the province’s proud rugby history.