Ulster were handed a massive boost ahead of Friday’s crunch clash with Leinster last night with Ruan Pienaar voted the Players’ Player of the season.
he award, voted for by Pienaar’s peers in the Magners League, couldn’t have been timed any better for both the player and his team-mates as they head to the RDS on Friday for the biggest game of their season.
The play-off semi-final against Leinster will give South African Pienaar another big stage on which to display his talents and to a large extent Ulster’s hopes of success will hinge on his performance.
Whether it’s been at outhalf or scrumhalf Pienaar has excelled this season and twice in recent matches he’s scored the winning points with the last kick of the game — showing that he has great mental strength to go with undoubted playing ability.
“It has been an unbelievable first season for me at Ulster,” said Pienaar.
“I came to a place that I didn’t know, but thanks to the team, I settled in very quickly and enjoyed myself.
“It is going to be a massive challenge for everyone this weekend, but we will go to Dublin and enjoy the whole experience.”
Ulster coach Brian McLaughlin will now look to use Pienaar’s status as the top player in the Magners League to his team’s advantage as far as he possibly can as he sets about trying to end the season with silverware.
While UIster celebrated one individual award, there were three for Munster, after they topped the final Magners League table.
Head coach Tony McGahan — whose team will face the Ospreys at Thomond Park on Saturday — picked up the Coach of the Season title.
Ronan O’Gara won the Gilbert Golden Boot for being the league’s most consistent marksman during the regular season, while Alan Quinlan was named as the recipient of Andy Irvine’s Chairman’s Award following his remarkable 15 year career.
Leinster won the Specsavers Fairplay Award having collected the fewest yellow and red cards.