RaboDirect Pro12: Pienaar can help Ulster banish Blues
A week ago Connacht went to Cardiff's old stomping ground and left with a losing bonus point and, if they continue their recent form, Ulster can go one better at the Arms Park this evening.
Ulster welcome Ireland internationals Paddy Wallace, Tom Court and Chris Henry back into the fold to bolster a side that hammered the Dragons last week.
The Blues are without Munster- bound centre Casey Laulala, who is injured, but they recall Gavin Henson to their line-up. Just a point behind Ulster on the table, Cardiff will be keen to get a win that would see them leapfrog their opponents.
However, despite some absentees, Ulster look too strong. The South African duo of Johann Muller and Pedrie Wannenburg remain out, but there is still a formidable look to their starting pack. Nigel Brady is joined by Court and giant All Black John Afoa, and the duo are supported by Louis Stevenson and Dan Tuohy in the second-row.
Willie Faloon gets another run at openside, joining Henry and Robbie Diack in the back-row.
Ben Blair broke Connacht hearts last week with his accurate kicking and the visitors will do well not to hand him too many opportunities at goal.
Although there is no Andrew Trimble or Darren Cave, Ulster look good behind the scrum, with Ian Whitten, Stefan Terblanche, Nevin Spence and Craig Gilroy set to profit from the passing of Ruan Pienaar, Ian Humphreys and Wallace.
Cardiff's coach Justin Burnell is wary of tonight's visitors.
"Ulster's threat comes from across the board," he said. "They have recruited some exceptional South African and New Zealand forwards and have a very good half-back pairing. Pienaar is a key man for them - if there was a world ranking, he would be in the top three whether he was playing 9 or 10."
Ulster have yet to win in Wales this season. They have what it takes to break this run and although Richie Rees, Ceri Sweeney and Chris Czekaj are on the hosts' bench and can make an impact, Ulster can do enough to earn victory.
BLUES - B Blair; R Mustoe, G Evans, G Henson; T James; D Parks, L Williams; J Yapp, R Tyrell, S Andrews. C Hill, P Tito (capt), M Paterson, M Williams, X Rush. Reps: T Rhys Thomas, N Trevett, R Harford, M Molitika, M Cook, R Rees, C Sweeney, C Czekaj.
ULSTER - S Terblanche; C Gilroy, N Spence, P Wallace, I Whitten; I Humphreys, R Pienaar; T Court, N Brady, J Afoa, L Stevenson, D Tuohy, C Henry, (capt), W Faloon, R Diack. Reps: A Kyriacou, P McAllister, A Macklin, T Barker, M McComish, P Marshall, S Danielli, A D'Arcy.
REF - G Clancy (IRFU).