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Pienaar: No complacency for Ulster

Fri, 06 Dec 2013 11:28
Ruan-pienaar-ulster
We won't get ahead of ourselves
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Springbok scrumhalf Ruan Pienaar insists the lessons of last season will ensure Ulster are fully focused when they take on Treviso on Saturday.

The Belfast-based province top Pool Five in the European Cup after a stunning start to their latest continental quest, with victories over Leicester Tigers and Montpellier setting them up nicely for their Italian double header.

That success at the Stade Yves du Manoir in Round Two was particularly impressive given that no Top 14 team had matched the feat this term, but Pienaar is adamant that there will be no complacency as a result when they face the pool's only winless side.

The Springbok star cites the equally-memorable victory at Northampton this time last year and the surprise defeat that followed a week later as a warning sign he says everyone involved with the club will be heeding this weekend.

"Montpellier was a huge win for us: they are an unbelievable side and it is not an easy place to go. It was a great result, but we did the same with a good performance at Northampton last year and then let it slip against them at home so we need to be really switched on and ready for anything," said Pienaar.

"These are two massive weekends for us. We've put ourselves in a good position in the group and to let it slide now would be disappointing. Last season we did the hard work at Franklin's Gardens before losing here at Ravenhill so there's still a lot to play for and we know that.

"We won't get ahead of ourselves and we definitely won't underestimate Treviso. They've improved so much over the last couple of years. They play a positive brand of rugby and are always willing to have a go. We'll have to be at our best."

Prior to Pienaar's arrival at Ravenhill, Ulster hadn't reached the knockout stages in the European Cup for more than a decade following their famous tournament-winning season back in 1999.

But since he and fellow South African Johann Muller set foot on Northern Irish soil they have reached two quarterfinals and a final in three seasons, eventually losing out to Northampton, Leinster and Saracens but proving they can regularly mix it with Europe's big boys once again.

Pienaar has revelled in the intensity of the northern hemisphere's top competition and is proud of what Ulster have achieved from the 2010/11 campaign onwards but he is keen for them to press on this term and banish the disappointment of that final defeat to their Irish counterparts at Twickenham two seasons ago.

"There's a lot to improve on but the guys are desperate to get back up there and challenge for the trophy," added Pienaar.

"We've come a long way. Ulster went through a tough time and being in a couple of quarterfinals and a final now was special, but, if we want to improve as a team, we need to be there year in and year out, competing with the best sides.

"It's one of the top competitions in the world. For our region here in Northern Ireland, it means a lot to the people and to all our supporters.

"I've thoroughly enjoyed it. It's a brilliant competition. To play against the top teams around Europe and to travel to different cities and different places and experience different cultures makes it really special. I've loved every minute of it and hopefully it will continue."

Saturday is certainly set to be another special occasion, with Ravenhill already sold out for the second home European Cup tie of the term.

The stadium underwent substantial development over the summer and Pienaar is convinced that an already incredible atmosphere has been enhanced courtesy of the new stands and the increased capacity of 13,500.

"It's fantastic to be running out at Ravenhill. It's a special place to play rugby, with a great atmosphere. It's like a completely different place now. The atmosphere was always great with the old stand but it makes it so much more special with the way it's looking now.

"It's made it even better. The noise definitely stays in and makes it a bit louder and getting more people in here is exciting. We've got great supporters here who have always been loyal to us and stuck with us through the tough times. That always helps the players on match night."

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