Belfast Telegraph

It's great to get back playing for Ulster after the World Cup

By Jonathan Bradley

While most involved in the latter stages of the World Cup took a well earned break following the tournament's conclusion, Ulster's Ruan Pienaar wanted nothing more than to roll up his sleeves up for the province.

Part of the South Africa squad that bounced back from the catastrophic loss to Japan on the opening Saturday to eventually claim bronze medals, there were just eight days between his start against Argentina in the third place play-off and a return off the bench for Ulster in last weekend's win over Dragons.

He will be front and centre in the nine jersey this afternoon when Les Kiss's side meet Oyonnax in their first Champions Cup contest of the season and the 31-year-old says he was never likely to pass up the opportunity of the start.

"I do not think I really could afford to take a break now," he said.

"I think you have to get back playing again.

"I did not play that much in the World Cup and also getting familiar with the calls and plays again.

"I think I am more than happy to come back straight in and get a break somewhere else or late in the season. I am happy to be back

"It has been a busy couple of years for me but as long as you are healthy and injury free I am happy to play; it is great to be back in again. I guess from a personal point of view it has been a bit strange preparation-wise.

"Normally I have some time to settle in before Europe starts, this time it has come around quickly but I'm just excited to be back with Ulster.

"I'm excited to see everyone again and train with the guys

"I'm just excited to be back and play some rugby again."

Indeed such is the Bloemfontein native's level of comfort in his current surroundings he has revealed he is considering extending his stay in Belfast beyond the end of his current contract.

The man who today will be making his 99th appearance for his adopted province has been a huge hit since arriving on these shores back in 2010 but a return home to the Sharks had long been mooted, even before he signed the extension that keeps him at Kingspan until the summer of 2017.

On the contrary however, when the time comes Pienaar says he will happily listen to what the team's decision makers have to say.

"I have been happy for a long time and I have not kept it a secret," he said.

"I still have two seasons on my contract and we will see.

"If they do not think I am too old and still think I can add value here I definitely would be thinking about it.

"For now I just want to come back, perform well, be consistent in my performances and add value where I can."

The re-adjustment from national duty has been even more pronounced this time around given that he has returned to a new face on the training paddock.

While the rest of the squad's Test starts were wholly familiar with Les Kiss from his days in the Ireland set-up, Pienaar did not even get to work under the new director of rugby during the Australian's temporary tenure last summer as he spent the early months of the season in rehab after picking up a knee injury in the Rugby Championship.

The injection of fresh ideas have impressed the 88-times capped Springbok.

"The organization and discipline Les has brought to the squad that is something that we need and something he has added alongside Doakie (Neil Doak).

"I think we have a great coaching staff and I'm really excited.

"It has been great working with him the last week and I think as a squad we will learn a lot and will grow as we get along.

"It's great to hear a new voice as, obviously, I missed last season when he worked with the guys for a couple of weeks.

"For me it is nice to hear a new voice, see some new ideas and try to get his philosophy across to the guys.

"It has been really good for me."

While this week, and in truth the entire pool stages, are too early to judge the new coaching ticket, there is no doubt that a run in Europe would be a significant boon to all involved.

Pienaar is aware however that Oyonnax, despite sacking their coach this week, will pose a significant roadblock this afternoon.

"This will be a really tough game first up," he stressed.

"They are a really good team especially at home.

"They've a big pack of forwards who can be really physical so yes, it will be a big challenge.

"They have a couple of really good players, Piri Weepu has been a great All Black and I think he has added a lot of value to Oyonnax. Pedrie (Wannenburg), we know what he is about, a really good performer who goes for 80 minutes non-stop.

"Obviously for us they have a big pack so we will be looking to get the tempo up a little bit and hopefully we can get some clean ball to put our wingers into some space.

"It is going to be a really tough challenge first up away from home and we know what French teams are like at home.

"They have got passionate supporters so it will be tough game for us.

"We have done our homework and hopefully we know what to expect.

"It will be an interesting battle and it would be nice if we could start off with a good win."

Belfast Telegraph


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