Ruan Pienaar is looking crocked again as troublesome knee forces him off
Ruan Pienaar is facing the likelihood of another spll on the sidelines after Ulster's star player sustained further damage to the knee he injured back in September, when playing for South Africa, during Saturday night's dismal 31-20 PRO12 defeat at the Ospreys.
The 30-year-old was forced out of the action at half-time at the Liberty Stadium and is due to undergo a scan today when the extent of his problem will be better known. However, Ulster's scrum-half seemed to be in some discomfort which does not seem to augur well as Saturday night was only the South African's third game since returning from his knee ligament problem in the first of Ulster's back-to-back European games against the Scarlets at the start of this month.
With Neil Doak's injury list already considerable - and includes leading names Andrew Trimble, Iain Henderson, Jared Payne and Paddy Jackson - the loss of Pienaar for more time on the physio's table could hardly come at a worse time for the Ulster coach after his side have now slumped to a third defeat from their last four games. And with two interprovincials coming Ulster's way, with Connacht at home on Boxing Day and Leinster away on January 3rd, Doak needs to get that winning feeling back and fast as Saturday's defeat saw them slip to fifth in the PRO12 table and just outside the play-off positions. Naturally, some of the post-match reflection headed straight towards the shambolic situation at the end of the first half when referee Neil Paterson awarded a try to Ulster after Ian Humphreys had got on the end of a spilled Ospreys ball.
After having also consulted the TMO and given the score on the basis that he was playing advantage to the Ospreys, who had seemingly gobbled up Darren Cave's knock-on near their line and attacked only to lose control of the ball, assistant referee Nigel Owens then got involved to cast doubt on the original decision.
And when Belfast-born Paterson went back upstairs it was noticed that Josh Matavesi had thrown a forward pass after Cave spilt the ball and that the referee should never have been playing advantage to the home side in the first place ruling out all the play which led to the score.
As the Ulster players looked on in bewilderment and, indeed, coach Neil Doak had already returned to the changing room convinced that his side had successfully eaten into a 17-3 lead for the Welsh side, Paterson did an about-turn and ruled the try out.
"I saw that the try was given and walked in (to the changing room) and then the boys came in and said it wasn't given," said a frustrated Doak.
"It's been pretty disappointing with the TMOs and officiating because it's actually cost us games.
"In these big games you've got to deliver and unfortunately we're not doing that," Doak stated of Ulster's overall effort.