Ulster Impact

Published Wednesday, 22 January 2014
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Ruan Pienaar has made the 15 long-list of nominees for the prestigious ERC European Player of the Year award - and for regular Ulster watchers at Ravenhill, the recognition will come as no surprise.

And we do not even need to look that far back to realize the impact the South African has on the marauding Ulster team that is looking like it could make this season memorable - only as far back as the weekend in fact as he put in a man of the match showing in the unforgettable 22 - 19 win over Leicester at Welford Road that secured a last eight home tie in the Heineken Cup.

Pienaar's game is based on all-round strength too.

His kicking is coming on in leaps and bounds, something that is a must for a scrum-half - he is amongst the top, if not the top, player in the world at this facet of the game.

Pienaar has worked and worked at ensuring his passing comes on and his accuracy now is unerring and his passing selection is more often than not right on the money.

Pienaar is one of many South African additions to the European rugby scene, but whilst he brings an insatiable work-rate to see his performance against Leicester landing five penalties from five plus a conversion of his own try is testimony to his impact, influence and importance to Ulster.

"It seems like he scores all the points every week," laughed team-mate and captain Johann Muller of Pienaar's latest performance.

"A huge amount of credit to him and it doesn't just happen. He puts a huge amount of work in, he puts hours and hours into his kicking and it's wonderful when it pays off."

To look at Pienaar's statistics from his last three matches he registered 15 points against Munster, 17 against Montpellier and 22 against the Tigers - they are figures to frighten the continent's best.

Ulster's key win ensured they top Pool 5 with six wins from six and now comes the chance to avenge last season's last eight loss against Saracens.

With Pienaar in such mesmeric form, they could well do it, and who knows where that confidence and skill will take them this season, both domestically and in Europe.

© UTV News
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Chris Brennan
Chris Brennan

Chris Brennan is a cross-platform sports journalist with UTV.

As well as featuring on UTV Live and contributing to u.tv, Chris can be heard regularly on U105, fronting the station's sports coverage.

Chris started his career part-time, whilst still at school, with the Down Recorder newspaper in Downpatrick and then began freelancing when at college and university.

It was at this stage that he moved into broadcasting and began freelancing for UTV in 2004.

Chris is a graduate of Queen's University Belfast, where he graduated in Modern History and Politics.

Apart from his huge appetite for all sport - but especially football - his other interests include history and travel.

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