By the time the World Cup came to an end this autumn Ulster’s Ruan Pienaar was already itching to return ‘home’ to Belfast to aid his side’s misfiring RaboDirect PRO12 campaign.
While a statement like that wouldn’t look out of place coming from an Ulsterman, to hear a Springbok say it is somewhat more surprising.
But, such is the 27-year-old half-back’s devotion to the Irish outfit’s cause, he has already switched his entire focus to turning around their slow start to life in the RaboDirect PRO12.
Pienaar, who won his 50th cap for South Africa when he came off the bench in the World Cup group stages, made his return to action against the Scarlets back in October but then suffered a hamstring strain that kept him out of action until last weekend.
But with the Heineken Cup and a massive double header against Aironi looming on the horizon Pienaar knows he has a fight on his hands to wrestle the No.9 jersey away from incumbent Paul Marshall.
“Paul has done a fantastic job for the side, he’s lead them so well so I know now that there is a fight on as to who will start,” he said.
“But this is what any side wants and for me, having spent a lot of the World Cup on the sidelines it’s just nice to be home and able to focus on playing.
“Representing your country is a huge honour and the World Cup is a special privilege that I am very proud to have played at but on a personal level it was disappointing not to have been involved more.
“But I was checking on Ulster’s results online as often as I could because the club means a lot to me and I know how important it is to start the season well.
“We did that but we’ve had a little dip since then and with the Christmas break coming up and a near-full strength squad we need a couple of wins to push on from eighth.
“We had a fantastic season last year in making the semis domestically and the quarters in Europe and we want to maintain those standards.”
While the likes of Pienaar, Stephen Ferris and Andrew Trimble were all strutting their stuff on the world stage the Ravenhill outfit were forced to blood a number of youngsters in the RaboDirect PRO12.
And since his return Pienaar has been extremely impressed by the depth of Brian McLaughlin’s squad to cope with their notable absentees.
“Young guys like Paddy Jackson and Nevin Spence have come into the side and performed really well so that’s a good sign for the future of the club,” he added.
“We need to put together a few wins in a row now to push us up the table but the spirit in the camp is positive, it’s about keeping the momentum going.”
Pienaar’s own future at the club is still yet to be decided as the former World Cup winner is currently halfway through the final year of his two-year deal.
But the former Natal Shark insists that Belfast is where he would like to stay, saying: “I’ve loved my time here, my future is being decided soon as there are a number of offers on the table but I'm really looking to extend my time here.”