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'This one hurts the most' - Pienaar on Ulster's latest play-off upset

The South Africa international admits to some bitterness at the late penalty decision in the defeat to Glasgow.

Updated at 18.00

WHEN ARE ULSTER finally going to get over that hurdle?

Last weekend was far too familiar a feeling for the province as they lost out in agonising and partly controversial fashion in a play-off match.

A Heineken Cup final in 2012, a Pro12 final in 2013, a Heineken Cup quarter-final in 2013, a Pro12 semi-final in 2014, another Heineken Cup quarter-final in 2014, and now a Pro12 semi-final in 2015.

Ruan Pienaar dejected after the game Pienaar and Ulster trudge off the Scotstoun turf in disappointment. Source: Presseye/Darren Kidd/INPHO

They’ve all ended in defeat for Ulster, but scrum-half Ruan Pienaar says it’s the last one on that list, the most recent one, that has hurt the group most of all.

“Winning trophies is the goal and that’s the sad and disappointing thing about last week, we were the better team on the day but we lost it at the end there,” said Pienaar at Barbarians camp in Adare Manor yesterday.

Glasgow are a quality side who took their opportunities well, it was a great kick from Finn Russell from the corner [to win it]. We’ve lost a couple of times in play-offs like that, but as a group I think this one hurts the most of them all.

“It’s really disappointing. We keep saying we have to learn, we have to learn… but there’s got to be a time where we start learning and win something. I do believe that we’ve got a good squad at Ulster, hopefully competing for silverware and hopefully I can win something before I leave one day.”

The frustration on Pienaar’s part at Ulster’s ongoing failure to get over the line is obvious, perhaps all the more so because a refereeing decision that turned an Ulster scrum into a Glasgow penalty inside the closing 10 minutes proved so important in the outcome.

Ruan Pienaar kicks clear Pienaar will look to overcome his disappointment with the Baa-Baas. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Captain Rory Best was critical of Niko Matawalu’s involvement in that penalty immediately post-match and Pienaar admits to a slight sense of bitterness too. That said, the South Africa international believes there’s little point in dwelling on it.

“I guess so, but I guess you’ve got to make peace with the decision the ref made there,” said Pienaar.

Obviously in hindsight you look back at it and think ‘was it really a penalty?’ But they got it and we lost the game, so you’ve got to move on from it. There’s no way about that, it’s disappointing but what can you do?”

The chance to get out of Belfast is one Pienaar couldn’t refuse this week as the Barbarians extended an invitation his way for the clashes with Ireland on Thursday and England on Sunday.

His involvement with the Baa-Baas means the scrum-half won’t be in Belfast as Munster and Glasgow battle it out for silverware on Ulster’s home patch on Saturday: “I think I’d rather be here!”

Ignoring that sense of escapism, Pienaar is also excited to be part of the Robbie Deans-coached invitational side, one that brings him back to his early rugby days.

Ruan Pienaar kicks a penalty The scrum-half resumed kicking duties for Ulster last weekend. Source: Presseye/Darren Kidd/INPHO

“The opportunity is always special,” said Pienaar. “You get to play with guys you’ve always played against, it’s a good social week and you can enjoy really what rugby is all about.

“This takes it back to the roots of why we started to play the game, it’s always an enjoyable week. It’s a massive honour if you get invited, you only get here if you get an invitation.

“When you see the players who have worn this jersey before you, it’s some of the best players who have ever played the game and to get the opportunity to do that and play with some of the world’s best players, not many players will say no to that.

“There’s no pressure on us, it’s about enjoying it. We have the freedom to play a bit; you start playing rugby because you enjoy it and that’s what you get here.”

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Murray Kinsella

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