Ruan Pienaar: Why Ulster have only themselves to blame
Pienaar predicament exposes flaws in the system: Patterson
Ulster's last great home-grown scrum-half, Colin Patterson, has said more should have been done to develop a local successor to Ruan Pienaar.
The Springbok superstar will leave Kingspan next summer with former Lions tourist Patterson wondering why more indigenous nines have not emerged in that time.
"There's obviously a reason behind it," said the legendary Irish international.
"New Zealand can produce scrum-half after scrum-half after scrum-half. If they can do it, why can't we? It's not a case of why can't we, it's why aren't we. There are certain things to be done to produce more of our own that we're just not doing.
"If we're going to develop our own, then we need to put coaching systems in place that produce the very best."
With still a year to go until his IRFU-enforced exit, Pienaar will take the field tonight when Ulster get their Guinness PRO12 campaign underway against Newport Gwent Dragons at Kingspan Stadium (7.35pm KO).
Elsewhere, however, an injury crisis has forced Director of Rugby Les Kiss to hand a debut to Academy prop Ross Kane.
Rodney Ah You, a summer arrival from champions Connacht, showed "delayed onset concussive symptoms" after last week's friendly win over Northampton Saints meaning he joins Wiehahn Herbst, Ricky Lutton and Johnny Simpson on the sidelines.
Georgian international Anton Peikrishvili will arrive shortly to offer temporary relief but is not in contention for tonight.
"It's a good opportunity for Ross," said Kiss. "He came off the bench against Northampton and did a good job for us. It's not ideal, your four front-line tight-head props out of action but, look, the IRFU have been helpful (allowing Peikrishvili's signing) and it's good for Ross to be exposed to another level."
Kane will not be the only man enjoying his competitive Ulster debut with All Black Charles Piutau and out-half Brett Herron joining him in making their maiden PRO12 appearances.
The hosts have also been able to welcome Irish trio Craig Gilroy, Stuart Olding and Sean Reidy back into the fold after their summer exertions with the national team in South Africa.