Friday 19 January 2018

McGrath: I've learned so much from Pienaar

Leinster's Luke McGrath. Photo: Seb Daly/Sportsfile
Leinster's Luke McGrath. Photo: Seb Daly/Sportsfile
Cian Tracey

Cian Tracey

Crowd favourite Ruan Pienaar looks set to be denied a final farewell in front of his home supporters but Luke McGrath has praised the legacy that he will leave behind.

The South African scrum-half will leave Ulster at the end of the season to join Montpellier and after suffering a back spasm against the Ospreys last weekend, is unlikely to feature against Leinster.

McGrath grew up watching Pienaar and looked to add several aspects of his game to his own.

"He taught us a massive lesson down there (last year)," McGrath said.

"He is an absolute world-class player, one of the best I've ever played against for sure.

"It would be great to go against him one last time, especially for him given it is his last game in the Kingspan.

"He has had such a massive influence for Ulster rugby, definitely, even Irish rugby. When you go up against these players, you have to lift your game.

"He was man of the match in this game last year. I just remember he was almost unstoppable. You just take those learnings.

"I grew up watching him and (Dimitri) Yachvili, who was similar. I think him being able to play ten helps him to play nine as well.

"He is just so natural in an unstructured kind of way. He can simply slot into both positions seamlessly.

"He is just a class act, he always looks like he has so much time on the ball. That is a learning for me - he knows when to kick the ball or when to pass it.

"He put us back in the corners a god few times last year. You learn small things from playing with great players, no more than playing against them.

"He always looks like has time, he is always at the ruck early and picks the right options.

"I always love going up against him - I only have two or three times in my career and I enjoy playing against guys of that calibre."


Even if Pienaar does miss out in Belfast tomorrow, McGrath has warned of the threats that Ulster carry across the pitch.

It's been another bitterly disappointing season for Ulster but they are determined to finish on a high.

"Ulster at home have such a proud record, only Munster have beaten them there and they drew against Cardiff," McGrath explained.

"They have a massive home crowd, they get on top of you. It is important we get a big start up there.

"It is one we are looking forward to; inter-pros are what we always want to play, we know each other so well."

Irish Independent

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