Glasgow defeat the most painful of all - Pienaar
Published 27/05/2015 | 02:30
Faced with the choice between moping around Belfast for the weekend as the Munster and Glasgow fans rolled into towns or joining up with the Barbarians, Ruan Pienaar didn't ponder too long.
He might have one of the busiest schedules in Irish rugby, but the Springbok scrum-half has no problem lacing up the boots and playing. He'll be long enough retired.
Part of his motivation, he admits, is just trying to get last weekend's defeat to Glasgow Warriors out of his system.
Since he joined the northern province there has been a competitive edge at Ravenhill, but for all of the improvements the trophy cabinet has yet to be bothered by the current crop of players.
The awarding of the final to Kingspan Stadium and Ulster's late-season run appeared to have set them up for a title win and, for so long at Scotstoun last Friday, they looked poised to book their place until DTH van der Merwe crossed the line and Finn Russell nailed the touchline conversion.
For all the controversy about refereeing decisions, Ulster had come up short in another big knockout game, and for their most influential player it rankled.
"Winning trophies is the goal and that's the sad and disappointing thing about last week, we were the better team on the day but we lost it at the end there," he reflected.
"Glasgow are a quality side who took their opportunities well. It was a great kick from Finn Russell.
"We've lost a couple of times in play-offs like that, but as a group I think this one hurts the most of them all.
"We keep saying we have to learn, we have to learn. . . but there's got to be a time where we start learning and win something.
"I believe that we've got a good squad at Ulster, and hopefully I can win something before I leave."
Tomorrow night, Pienaar will partner Leinster's Jimmy Gopperth for the Barbarians and is looking forward to pitting his wits against some familiar players at Thomond Park, in particular his Ulster half-back partner Paddy Jackson, who is vying for the Ireland No 10 jersey with Ian Madigan.
Jackson has grown up alongside Pienaar since making his breakthrough in his teens and the South African is impressed with his recent form.
"His kicking game has come a long way, he takes control of the team with his decision making," Pienaar explained. "He always takes the ball flat to the line and he's not scared to have a go. And I think his goal-kicking has come on a lot.
"He's a really good all-round player and defensively he's solid, so he's got the makings of being a really good international fly-half."
"He's got Johnny Sexton there so as long as he can learn from him. . . Paddy is still young and as long as he feeds off Johnny and learns from him, he'll get even better.
"Yeah, I'm really pleased to have played with him and seen his progress from a youngster. He has developed really well."
Given he shares a dressing-room with some of Joe Schmidt's most important players, faces others regularly and has also played against the collective Ireland side, few are better placed to assess the double Six Nations champions than Pienaar.
"Firstly, they've got a really good squad. Secondly, they've got a really clever coach - just the way they approach teams they've always got something up their sleeve, always different game-plans," he said.
"They think outside the box, the players buy in to what Joe is trying to do and everybody has got respect for him, and that is probably key.
"Small details are very important to them. You can see over the last 12 months especially the way they've improved and I think they'll keep going upwards, and they'll be one of the contenders (at the World Cup)."