Ruan Pienaar: Former Ulster scrum-half hints at coaching return to province

Ruan Pienaar
Pienaar developed a strong rapport with the home fans during his time at Ulster

Former Ulster scrum-half Ruan Pienaar has hinted at a possible return to the club in a coaching capacity.

The Cheetahs number nine will play against the province on Saturday in what will be his first appearance at the Kingspan since leaving in May 2017.

Pienaar was hugely popular during seven seasons in Belfast, scoring 877 points in 141 appearances.

"We'll see what the future holds," he said when asked if he would like to return to Ulster in the future.

"It brings a lot of memories and good feelings when you drive into Belfast, and my wife is very jealous that I get to come back here.

"I am coming to the end of my career playing-wise and our time in the next few years is in South Africa, but we'll see."

The 35-year-old was forced to leave Ulster in 2017 because the IRFU wanted to promote players who could represent Ireland, and he said at the time that he would like to coach the club in the future.

He signed a two-year contract with Top 14 French side Montpellier, but that was cut short prematurely when his sister died tragically in a car crash in South Africa in February last year.

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Former Ulster star Pienaar not ruling out Belfast return

He then joined the Cheetahs in the Pro14 last July, after spending some time with his wife and children back in Belfast, and played in their 63-26 victory over Dan McFarland's side in October.

"I was pretty sad the last time I played at the Kingspan, but it will bring out a lot of special memories," said Pienaar when looking ahead to Saturday night's encounter.

"It's great to be back in Belfast and to see some familiar faces - I see the weather hasn't changed much. It will be strange to go to the other changing room and not the Ulster one, but it's a great opportunity to be back.

"I had seven great years with Ulster and had a lot of fun. I was very sad when I had to leave so I'm looking forward to running out again at the Kingspan and playing against a few friends."

Pienaar has been impressed by Ulster's form this season, but is confident about the potential in what is a young Cheetahs side.

Ruan Pienaar
Pienaar was twice included in the Pro12 team of the year during a successful seven-year spell at Ulster

"It's a great group to be part of. We try to play a nice brand of rugby, which is obviously a lot easier back home when it's dry and 35 degrees," he added.

"We had a bit of momentum going into the previous game against Ulster, but are well aware of how tough a challenge we will face on Saturday night.

"Ulster have been in brilliant form in the last few months, particularly in Europe where they are in a tough group. I still watch them closely and it's great to see them doing so well - but hopefully they won't go too well on Saturday."

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