Pienaar: No complacency for Ulster

Fri, 06 Dec 2013 11:28
Large ruan pienaar ulster

Springbok scrumhalf Ruan Pienaar insists the lessons of last season will ensure Ulster are fully focused when they take on Treviso on Saturday.

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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FIXTURE GMT VENUE
Fri, 24 February 2017
Harlequins v Leicester Tigers 17h45 Twickenham Stoop
Edinburgh v Cardiff Blues 19h05 Myreside
Dragons v Leinster 19h30 Rodney Parade
Munster v Scarlets 19h35 Thomond Park
Sat, 25 February 2017
Sunwolves v Hurricanes 04h15 Tokyo
Crusaders v Brumbies 06h35 Christchurch
Waratahs v Force 08h45 Allianz Park
Saracens v Sale Sharks 12h45 Allianz Park
Northampton Saints v Worcester Warriors 13h00 Franklin's Gardens
Exeter Chiefs v Newcastle Falcons 13h00 Sandy Park
Cheetahs v Lions 13h05 Bloemfontein
Scotland v Wales 14h25 BT Murrayfield
Kings v Jaguares 15h15 Port Elizabeth
Ireland v France 16h50 Aviva Stadium
Stormers v Bulls 17h30 Cape Town
Sun, 26 February 2017
Bristol v Bath 11h00 Ashton Gate
Wasps v Gloucester 12h30 Ricoh Arena
Treviso v Connacht 12h30 Stadio Comunale di Monigo
Zebre v Ulster 12h30 Stadio Sergio Lanfranchi
Ospreys v Glasgow Warriors 13h05 Liberty Stadium
England v Italy 15h00 Twickenham Stadium
Mon, 27 February 2017
UCT-Ikeys v Maties 14h45 Cape Town
UWC v TUT 16h30 Cape Town
CUT-Ixias v UJ 16h30 Bloemfontein
Rhodes v Fort Hare 16h30 Grahamstown
UP-Tuks v Wits 16h30 Pretoria
CPUT v UKZN-Impi 16h30 Cape Town
Shimlas v NWU-Pukke 17h00 Bloemfontein
Thu, 02 March 2017
Force v Reds 10h30 Perth
Fri, 03 March 2017
Chiefs v Blues 06h35 Hamilton
RESULT SCORE
Fri, 24 February 2017
Reds v Sharks 28 | 26
Highlanders v Chiefs 15 | 24
Thu, 23 February 2017
Rebels v Blues 18 | 56
Tue, 21 February 2017
CUT-Ixias v Shimlas 13 | 22
Mon, 20 February 2017
UJ v UP-Tuks 18 | 11
UKZN-Impi v Fort Hare 16 | 10
UWC v Rhodes 88 | 8
Maties v NMMU-Madibaz 35 | 16
TUT v WSU 13 | 17
NWU-Pukke v UCT-Ikeys 20 | 15
Sun, 19 February 2017
Newcastle Falcons v Northampton Saints 46 | 31
Sale Sharks v Wasps 34 | 28
Sat, 18 February 2017
Connacht v Dragons 14 | 9
Ospreys v Munster 23 | 25
Leicester Tigers v Bristol 50 | 17
EUROPEAN CUP
MORE LOGS
Pool 1
Team P W D L Pts
Munster 6 5 0 1 24
Glasgow Warriors 6 4 0 2 19
Leicester Tigers 6 2 0 4 8
Racing Metro 6 1 0 5 5
Pool 2
Team P W D L Pts
Wasps 6 4 1 1 22
Toulouse 6 3 2 1 18
Connacht 6 4 0 2 18
Zebre 6 0 0 6 0
Pool 3
Team P W D L Pts
Saracens 6 5 1 0 24
Toulon 6 3 0 3 16
Scarlets 6 2 1 3 11
Sale Sharks 6 1 0 5 4
Pool 4
Team P W D L Pts
Leinster 6 4 1 1 23
Montpellier 6 3 0 3 16
Castres 6 2 1 3 12
Northampton Saints 6 2 0 4 9
Pool 5
Team P W D L Pts
Clermont Auvergne 6 5 0 1 26
Bordeaux 6 3 0 3 14
Exeter Chiefs 6 2 0 4 12
Ulster 6 2 0 4 10
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