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Ruan Pienaar basking in Ravenhill heat after milestone birthday

By Michael Sadlier

The sun being out at Ravenhill brings a smile to Ruan Pienaar's face as he has never made any secret of the fact that, well, the weather definitely could be improved on around these parts.

"It's nice to see it (the sun) come out a bit as the last couple of times we've played here it's been fairly terrible," he says knowing that no-one will argue that point.

So, he is clearly enjoying having some form of heat around as he prepares to turn it up on tonight's opposition and the smile even remains when he is reminded about the milestone birthday that came his way on Monday.

Yes, he turned 30 this week, which was doubtless a reminder to Pienaar that he has now entered the latter part of his notably impressive playing career.

Not that he sees it like that though when faced with making some public pronouncement on having now left his twenties behind.

"It wasn't as bad as I thought it would be," he says with a grin.

"I just went for dinner with my wife and spent the day with my family so it was really laid back and relaxed," Pienaar added before explaining what it actually feels like to have now hit his thirties.

"It's like you just started your career a couple of years ago, it's like you left school a couple of years ago.

"But I'm now sitting here and I'm 30," he adds before injecting some humour into all this talk about age. "But look, I'm still feeling well enough and I've maybe even got another 10 years in me."

Just in case you weren't quite on his wavelength, he quickly adds that any prospect of him still doing his stuff out on a rugby field in a decade's time is, as he states: "Probably pushing it a little."

Still, we're more than happy to have him as he is now and his skills set was, once again, memorably on show two weeks ago when Ulster's last outing saw them mangle the Dragons in a five-try demolition job.

Indeed, it was Pienaar who crossed for Ulster's first of the night after his support line on Darren Cave's left shoulder wasn't picked up by the scrambling Dragons defence.

It was typical Pienaar, ghosting into an area where he could do damage and giving himself that extra half a yard before the opposition could react.

He left the conversion to Paddy Jackson – who took all the conversions on the night and is somewhat surprisingly at out-half tonight after not featuring in the Ireland squad – but the Springbok had still managed to open the scoring after only two minutes with a trademark pot at goal.

When you wonder why he took the first kick before standing down, Pienaar answers with his usual combination of matter of factness and pure pragmatism.

"The first penalty was a long range kick and Paddy wasn't comfortable taking it so I said I'd take a shot.

"He (Jackson) had asked during the week if he could take the kicks as they (Ireland) weren't sure of the fitness of Jonathan Sexton so that was fine and he kicked really, really well.

"He hasn't kicked in game situations for a while so it was good to give him a go and he did well," is Pienaar's view of Jackson's 10 points in Ulster's 38-8 win.

Five days before that, he had played out-half in the narrow win at Treviso and there is no hint of regret at being moved back to his favoured number nine, which he also plays in tonight, with no issues about him having to fill in as Jackson is back.

"It's not ideal but I don't mind helping out if that's what's got to happen," states Pienaar on playing one out from scrum-half.

Still, it's so much better to have him playing where he would rather be and, yes, we won't mention the age thing again.

Belfast Telegraph

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