Guest writer for the Guinness PRO14, Brenden Nel spoke to Toyota Cheetahs captain and former Ulster talisman, Ruan Pienaar, about Ulster’s prospects ahead of the Guinness PRO14 Final tomorrow evening.
Former Ulsterman Ruan Pienaar, who represented the club 141 times, believes it is a “massive” achievement for the team to make this weekend’s Guinness PRO14 final against defending champions Leinster in Dublin.
Pienaar, who scored all Ulster’s points in their 2013 final loss to Leinster, believes that the team has a chance, even though everyone is writing them off against the unbeaten Dublin side.
Pienaar believes that Ulster will need to be at their best, but the bounce of the ball could aid them in a final where the pressure will be on.
“Ulster last won the competition in 2006, and we were in the final in 2013 where we lost against Leinster. For a small place like Belfast it is a massive achievement,” he said.
“The club has a great tradition and is always in the semi-finals and they will know what they have to do. Facing a team like Leinster isn’t easy because they have won so much and have been in these situations for so many times and know how to react.
“But a final is anyone’s game. It takes one wrong bounce and it can go any way. I’m excited to watch the game and really hope Ulster can give Leinster a real go this weekend.”
Pienaar lauded the fighting spirit in the semi-final win over Edinburgh and said he remained a massive supporter of Ulster after spending seven seasons with the club.
“I think it a massive achievement for them to make the final. Watching this weekend’s semi-final, they were in a bit of trouble at half-time, but they showed a lot of character and fight to come back and win the game at the end,” Pienaar said.
“I’m still a massive supporter of Ulster and always want them to do well. I’m overjoyed to see them in the final, but it will be difficult to beat Leinster, they will definitely arrive as favourites for the final. But as we have seen in the past, anything can happen in a final. Ulster will need to be at their best.”
Pienaar said Dan McFarland had done well as coach of the side to get them to the final in only his second year as coach, and will have a definite plan to try and upset them in the game.
“Dan will prepare them well for the week and they will have a definitive plan to try and take them on. Last year in the Champions Cup quarter-finals, they really took Leinster on and eventually just lost by two or three points if my memory serves me correctly.
“Ulster play them on a regular basis and they know Leinster’s strengths and weaknesses well. So if there is a team that can give them a go, it is Ulster. From my side I really hope so, but they will need to be at their best.”
If he had to give one word of encouragement to his former team-mates, it would be to enjoy the occasion and don’t let it get the better of you.
“Don’t let the occasion get the better of you. Obviously there won’t be a crowd, so you will need to generate your own energy for the game. They are good enough and they know Leinster well enough to know where to strike. They will have a good plan from their coaching staff. They need to enjoy the occasion and the result will sort it out. I’m looking forward to seeing them and hoping that they do well.”