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Ulster season in meltdown as Pienaar heads huge injury list

By Miichael Sadlier

ULSTER are facing an injury crisis which threatens to de-rail their season with star player Ruan Pienaar now added to an already lengthy list of sidelined players.

The South African (right) picked up a knee injury during the defeat at Leinster on New Year's Eve and could miss Ulster's next three games starting with tomorrow's trip to the Scarlets, where Les Kiss's battered squad will be hoping to avoid back-to-back losses in the PRO12.

Pienaar, who will leave Ulster this summer after being controversially denied a contract extension by the IRFU, looks set to sit out Ulster's last two European pool games against Exeter and Bordeaux, representing a huge blow for Kiss as he battles to keep both Ulster's PRO12 and European seasons alive.

Three other players also picked up injuries in the loss to Leinster. Hooker and joint skipper Rob Herring and prop Rodney Ah You are out for at least six weeks due to knee ligament issues while back-rower Roger Wilson also has a knee problem.

The province are now down to just four fit props in their frontline squad as Wiehahn Herbst (calf) will be gone for up to six weeks, Ricky Lutton (toe) is still out while Kyle McCall's (hamstring) season is over.

Also on the injured list are Craig Gilroy (ankle), Stuart Olding (calf), Jared Payne (kidney) and Marcell Coetzee (knee).

Meanwhile, head coach Neil Doak has been linked to the Connacht job soon to be vacated by Pat Lam.

SITUATION CRITICAL: Pages 48-49

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