Friday 22 September 2017

Pienaar's return lifts Ulster ahead of Scarlets test

Donnchadh Boyle

Donnchadh Boyle

ULSTER scrum-half Ruan Pienaar is set to make just his second appearance of the season when the province welcome Scarlets to Ravenhill tonight.

Coincidentally, the Springbok's only appearance this term came away in Llanelli when the Scarlets emerged 24-17 winners, but he is expected to see action at some stage in place of Paul Marshall, who has been an ever-present for the province this season.

Pienaar's return to fitness after a hamstring injury, along with the inclusion of Stephen Ferris, Rory Best, John Afoa, Craig Gilroy and Chris Henry in the starting line-up, is a timely boost with Ulster registering just one win from their last six league outings.

Robbie Diack, Willie Faloon, Declan Fitzpatrick, Andi Kyriacou and Simon Danielli all miss out.

"Things just didn't turn out right for us last week at Firhill," said Henry, who starts at open-side. "But Glasgow is a difficult place to go and the visit of the Scarlets will not be any easier.

"We respect the Scarlets a lot, although we will not offer them too much respect. The way they play the game is fantastic. They are certainly a superb team to watch and on the field, they come at you from everywhere.

"But we intend to focus on our own performance this week. We have made just far too many errors in the last couple of games which has hit us badly. It all about confidence -- the vital confidence on the ball. It has been proved in the past that whenever we hold onto the ball and go through phases, we produce some great rugby and put defences under real pressure.

"That is what we intend to do. It's gone very well in training and we expect to carry this through to Ravenhill."

With former Ireland international Simon Easterby making waves as defence coach, the Welsh region have taken some notable scalps, not least wins at home to Castres and away to Northampton in the Heineken Cup.

They set a club record with their eighth successive win in all competitions last weekend, but are without eight Welsh internationals who take on Australia in the Millennium Stadium tomorrow.

However, they will have Stephen Jones, who made his 300th appearance for the region last weekend and he will lead a largely inexperienced side

"We know that Ulster will be at full strength and without our internationals, it's more of a challenge -- but all our players are keen to wear the shirt at the moment," said Scarlets head of rugby Nigel Davies. "There's a huge game against Munster on the horizon, so they'll want to take their opportunities in a bid to get selected for such a big fixture for the club.

"We have a few new Scarlets in our side, but we're also strong on experience and ability and we go to Ulster on the back of a good run and with a lot of energy, enthusiasm and forward momentum. It is a very competitive environment at Parc y Scarlets at the moment."

Verdict: Ulster

Ulster -- A D'Arcy; A Trimble, D Cave, N Spence, C Gilroy; I Humphreys, P Marshall; T Court, R Best, J Afoa, J Muller (capt), D Tuohy, S Ferris, C Henry, P Wannenburg;

Reps: N Brady, P McAllister, A Macklin, L Stevenson, R Diack, R Pienaar, P Jackson, I Whitten.

Scarlets -- D Evans; V Iongi, N Reynolds, A Warren, S Lamont; S Jones (capt), G Davies; P John, K Owens, D Manu; L Reed, A Powell; M Gilbert, R McCusker, K Murphy Reps: E Phillips, I Thomas, S Gardiner, D Welch, J Edwards, R Williams, D Newton, I Evans.

Ref -- A Rolland (IRFU)

Ulster v Scarlets,

Live, BBC2, 7.05

Irish Independent

Editor's Choice

Also in Sport