Pienaar likely to recover for a final hurrah
Ulster remain confident that Ruan Pienaar will make one last appearance for the province in Saturday's season finale with inter-provincial rivals Leinster (5.15pm kick-off).
The Kingspan crowd are desperate to give their departing hero a big send-off before his IRFU-enforced move to Montpellier this summer, with the province's PRO12 season coming to a close this weekend.
Pienaar, however, has been struggling with discomfort in his back having had to be substituted early on in the 24-10 defeat to the Ospreys last week, which all but ended Ulster's top four hopes.
"He should be fine," revealed Ulster head coach Neil Doak yesterday.
"His back went into spasm right at the end of the warm-up against Ospreys and he tried to get through it, but you could see quite clearly he was struggling a little bit.
"He couldn't get up to full speed."
Doak, however, remains optimistic that, with little on the line thanks to the Ulster’s fifth-place finish, one last sight of Pienaar in a competitive setting will at least give the fans one thing to cheer.
“With those (type of injuries), 48 hours later it can settle quite quickly,” said Doak.
“He has not trained these first couple of days but we remain hopeful he will come through for the weekend.”
The province also hope to see flanker Chris Henry return in that game after he injured his calf against Munster and missed the loss against Ospreys.
Centre Stuart McCloskey and wing Charles Piutau are both fighting to be fit after picking up knocks in that game, but Stuart Olding has suffered a “significant ankle injury” that will see him miss the visit from their inter-pro rivals.
Olding, who has had two ACL surgeries in his young career, has had a luckless run with injuries and now looks set to be ruled out not only this weekend but of Ireland’s summer tour to the USA and Japan.
Jared Payne, Clive Ross and Darren Cave have also played their last games for the province this season.
Payne, who will tour New Zealand with the British and Irish Lions, is still out with an ankle injury that he picked up against Cardiff last month.
Cave, who has featured only once since the middle of February, has been diagnosed with vestibular dysfunction while Ross has a knee problem.
Meanwhile, Ulster centre Mark Best is the second player to leave this summer for Jersey Reds.
The 23-year-old product of the Hughes Insurance Academy spent this season on a development deal but will move now move to the English second tier.
It was previously revealed that flanker Conor Joyce will make the same move ahead of next season.