Stand-in Sheridan is relishing taking game to Pienaar
The sight of Conor Murray togged out and partaking in limited training at the University of Limerick this week was a reminder to Cathal Sheridan of the small window that has presented itself over the past month.
The Sligo native is expected to play for Munster for the 20th time tomorrow night at Ravenhill and, with Ireland and Lions scrum-half Murray due back over the next fortnight, he knows he must keep pushing his case while the spotlight still shines.
Murray will return as automatic first choice, but Sheridan has managed to establish himself as a trusted and reliable deputy.
Tomorrow he will face Ruan Pienaar, as good a litmus test as any for young scrum-halves. Pienaar is the kind of player coaches point a young scrum-half towards and say 'watch him', given his ability to do the basics so well, but Sheridan is mindful of putting any awe to one side tomorrow night. He wants to get under the Springbok's skin.
Asked if he admires the experienced South African, the 25-year-old said: "Definitely. I don't think you will find any scrum-half who will not say that.
"He controls the game very well, does all his basics. But the challenge from my side is to try and make his life as difficult as possible. If each one of our guys out-performs his opposite number, then it makes life a lot easier as a team."
Despite a raft of changes that saw 41 players used in their last three games, Munster travel north on the back of a winning run of nine games that stretches back to October.
While Ulster sit 10 points back in the Pro12 table in fifth, Rob Penney's side are riding high on top of the league. They have made plenty of progress this season and a win in Belfast – a venue they regularly struggle at – would be a real sign of progress.
"It's great to keep the winning mentality going," Sheridan added. "We have a very tough task ahead, I don't think anyone will underestimate that. Ulster have tried to make Ravenhill into something of a fortress over the last while. They have done a very good job of it. Our job is to go up there and do our best to upset that.
"You always know what you can expect when you go up to Ulster. Any of the senior lads who have been there year in and year out will tell you –- you are never going to get an easy game up there.
"I know it is a cliché, but the fact of the matter is that it's an inter-pro and it could be in the Heineken Cup or the Rabo, but at the end of the day, it's an inter-pro game between Munster and Ulster and they are always something to be savoured."