Saturday 16 December 2017

Pienaar knee fears ease as Trimble calls for 'backlash'

Ulster's Ruan Pienaar is aiming to be fit for Saturday's encounter with Exeter Chiefs Photo: Oliver McVeigh/Sportsfile
Ulster's Ruan Pienaar is aiming to be fit for Saturday's encounter with Exeter Chiefs Photo: Oliver McVeigh/Sportsfile

Jonathan Bradley

Ulster's fears over the fitness of Ruan Pienaar eased last night as scans showed the scrum-half's knee injury is not as bad as first feared.

The South African is now in a race to be fit in time for Saturday's all-important Champions Cup clash with Exeter Chiefs as the northern province look to bounce back from their heavy defeat to Bordeaux-Begles.

Co-captain Andrew Trimble has told his side that they must produce a backlash against their English opponents in the Kingspan Stadium if they are to save their European season.

Ulster lost their Champions Cup opener for the third season in succession on Sunday in a performance that operations manager Bryn Cunningham branded "atrocious."

Director of rugby Les Kiss called for his squad to take a "hard look at themselves" in the aftermath of a game they led until the 72nd minute, and Trimble has demanded a response.

"We're hurting from the last two weeks and we've got to produce a backlash," he said.

"We put ourselves in a position to win. We defended for such long periods but we hit our breaking point. If you're going to defend for as long as we had to, that's going to happen.

"Whenever we did get a chance to play rugby we didn't get the tempo high enough and we couldn't hold onto the ball. We just gave it straight back to them and then we're under pressure again. It's a very difficult result to come to terms with."


Cunningham added that the second-half performance left him "gobsmacked" and Trimble admits that the visitors were "outsmarted" by Bordeaux's game-plan.

Kiss said the travelling supporters deserved a much better performance in France.

"It's absolutely fantastic what they give us," he said. "They deserve better and unfortunately we didn't deliver what we should have for them.

"There is deep disappointment in the dressing-room that we let them down. We've got to stand up and deliver next week because we know our supporter base will."

Ulster will not be the only team demanding improvement come the weekend, however, after Exeter were thumped 35-8 at home by Top 14 pace-setters Clermont.

Chiefs coach Rob Baxter wants an angry response from his side this week.

"I don't think that was a level of performance that is anything like we can achieve or have achieved in the past," he said.

Exeter are hopeful that England hooker Luke Cowan-Dickie will be fit to play despite twisting his ankle against Clermont. Jack Nowell is already out with a thumb problem.

Irish Independent

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