In what is a bittersweet swan song for the much loved Ulster scrum-half Ruan Pienaar, it has now been confirmed the influential Springbok will be sidelined, just when it matters most.
Much has been made of the IRFU’s decision not to offer the 32-year-old with a contract extension, meaning that at the end of the current season, the fan favourite will have to depart the province he has been with since 2010.
While this decision continues to leave a bitter taste in fans’ mouths, things are now set to taste a whole lot worse as Neil Doak, Ulster’s head coach, has confirmed that the scrum-half is now set for a spell on the sidelines with a knee injury.
According to the Irish Times, Doak will be without the south African for Ulster’s crucial Champions Cup tie with the Exeter Chiefs on January 14th.
“I don’t envisage him being out six months or even until the end of the season.
“If it is anything, it will probably be the next couple of weeks.”
This next couple of weeks could be a season-defining period for Ulster as a loss to the Chiefs would consign the northern province to a third consecutive failed bid to reach the knockout stages of the competition.
Before that there is the tricky proposition of a trip to the Scarlets in the Pro 12 on Friday, January 6th. Following a difficult string of fixtures, Doak’s side find themselves in sixth, outside the play-off spots and at risk of losing touch.
A loss at
This is certainly not how it was meant to be for Pienaar. Having made his home in Belfast, raised his family there, leaving in the summer will be a difficult moment. Having committed, like the true professional he is, to doing all he can for the team until the day he leaves, being sidelined now, just when it matters most, will be another tough pill to swallow.
Sport can be cruel sometimes, with many stars having failed to achieve that fairy tale ending they deserve. For Ulster fans, they are now simply left to hope that there is still time for Pienaar to find his.
Gary Brennan, Pundit Arena