Belfast Telegraph

Ulster are back in it now says Ruan Pienaar after making an eventful return

By Michael Sadlier

Afterwards, despite the general sense of relief at not only winning for the first time this season in Europe, never mind the impact of the try bonus on matters in Pool Three, there was still that sense of a cloud hanging over the post-match shakedown as the queries surrounding Ulster's injury list were fired Neil Doak's way.

Stuart Olding, Wiehahn Herbst, Franco van der Merwe, Nick Williams and Stuart McCloskey had all left the field in various conditions of distress and Doak was asked to give some definition to it all.

"A few boys aren't looking good for next week and we'll have to see how they come through over the next 48 hours," Doak said.

The coach, though, rightly wished to put emphasis on the fact that this win had delivered everything Ulster had required to keep their European adventure alive.

Yes, five points would do very nicely indeed and were the requirement from the night's work, the Ulster coach admitted

To Doak's left sat a familiar face who has not been seen on the park around these parts for quite a while. A certain Ruan Pienaar awaited his chance to put his own spin on things.

It was refreshing to see him back, both on the pitch and off it, as a voice yet to be heard in a post-match situation began to field the questions which inevitably headed his way.

Pienaar sat himself down and quietly dissected Ulster's bonus point win - just what they had needed to stay afloat in Europe - which happened to have coincided with his first game back in his club's shirt this season.

He chose to dwell on how elements of his game had been a bit off really, but then that's the 30 year-old South African's way - a perfectionist finding imperfection in what he had achieved.

Still, he had made quite an impression on his first game back since injuring knee ligaments in September when playing for his home country in the Rugby Championship.

A great try and then, well, a yellow card late on for a deliberate knock-on in the 75th minute as the Scarlets came pressing hard for some more points; it was quite an eventful evening for Mr Pienaar.

The try, though, was typical Pienaar. He had effortlessly, or at least seemingly so, glided across the Kingspan turf to run a nice line for Darren Cave's first half break and was there to take the ball and admittedly break some despairingly weak tackling before making the line.

It reminded us just what we have been missing all this time while waiting for his return to action.

And, yes, there was no place-kicking but that will probably come along sooner rather than later with Ian Humphreys - though he played really well generally - not exactly having an easy evening of it while operating off the tee.

"It's in our hands now, we've got three games left and hopefully we can get three good results," Pienaar said when asked to give some opinion on Ulster's future hopes in Pool Three.

"For me it's just a relief to be back on the pitch again and do almost 80 minutes," he added of his own evening's work at the Kingspan.

"I think for us it was disappointing with those first two results (against Leicester and Toulon) but we've given ourselves a chance to still be in this pool," he said.

"I think as a team we haven't played as well as we'd want to but we've managed to grind out wins," he added of observing most of this season's action from the distance of being on the ever-growing injured list.

"I'm sure it will come at some stage," he ventured of Ulster's aim to put in a total 80-minute performance. "I'm positive that we've got a good group of guys and I think we're heading in the right direction."

And what of his own performance? Well, he didn't sound exactly pleased.

"Well I'm always hard on myself," he said with a slight grin before giving us more.

"I gave a couple of bad passes and I made a few wrong decisions but it's just nice to be back out again.

"Hopefully I'll be sharper in the next couple of weeks."

No doubt you will.

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