Piutau retains faith as Ulster target timely resurrection
Ulster face a resurrection derby against Munster this season but after last week's criminal home draw against Cardiff, the faith of even their most devout supporters is being severely tested.
Securing the sparkling talents of All Black Charles Piutau was the next step in Ulster's quest to transform themselves from perennial also-rans into genuine title challengers.
Unfortunately, without a pack to give them enough of a front-foot platform to confidently take even a tentative stride forward, Ulster have flattered to deceive once more this term.
On the outside looking in at the play-off scramble with three weeks left, it seems likely that they will require three wins from their remaining three games, beginning in Munster tomorrow, to elbow their way into the semi-finals.
History will decree that they will be politely evicted even if they make it that far.
"Our performances just haven't been anywhere near that level," lamented Rory Best this week, adding pointedly: "But I believe that we have the personnel and players to be at that standard."
Yet again, the fingers have been pointed at the yearly roll call of revolving coaching personnel; the dysfunctional partnership of Allen Clarke and Neil Doak will finally be sundered this summer.
Into the breach next time will come Jono Gibbes as head coach who, alongside Les Kiss, director of rugby, will be charged with the latest attempt to transform rugby's great underachievers into a squad of winners.
That's the long-term view; there is always a long-term view in Ulster. It is the short term, though, that always trips them up. Piutau, as he must, is keeping the faith.
"When it comes to these big games, you don't get many opportunities, so you have to finish them," he says. "We left a lot of opportunities out there last week.
"We understand as a team that we cannot dwell on any other negatives in the past but learn from that and move forward.
"You find out through these times what teams are made of, the character of the team, hopefully we get to prove to ourselves and to everyone what we can do.
"Personally, for me it's all about wanting to win, win every game, and hopefully win championships.
"The expectation has always been there.
"For me, it's always wanting to be the best I can be in every game, and helping the team. That's all I can do."
At this stage, he will know prayers are urgently required to save Ulster's season.