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Pienaar to prove the difference
20 Dec 2014 14:02
By Brendan Cole
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Ospreys v Ulster, Liberty Stadium, Kick off 17.15
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Ulster could not produce their best on the road in Llanelli a week ago and face another difficult ask against the Ospreys in Swansea.
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In fairness to the Irish province, the margin of victory flattered the Scarlets and Ulster could have nicked a win if Ruan Pienaar’s penalty in the final ten minutes had gone over.
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In trying conditions, the second-half performance showed character and despite that late miss, Pienaar’s return has clearly brought Neil Doak’s side up a level over the last few weeks.
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For their part, the Ospreys did reasonably well in their European double-header against Racing Metro, earning a draw and a bonus point on the road and remain the toughest of the Welsh sides.
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Ulster can expect a typically abrasive performance from a home pack led by Alun-Wyn Jones while Dan Biggar has enough pace outside him to do damage if Ulster do end up on the back foot at the coalface.
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But Ulster also boast a quality backline and the interplay between the likes of Stuart Olding, Luke Marshall and Darren Cave reminiscent of the best of Ireland’s play at times last week.
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The Ulster pack may well end up bested over the 80 minutes but Ulster’s record against the Ospreys is good and that ability to strike from different areas of the field, combined with Pienaar’s game management, could see them edge this one.
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Prediction: Ospreys 16-20 Ulster
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Ospreys: Dan Evans; Hanno Dirksen, Ashley Beck, Josh Matavesi, Eli Walker; Dan Biggar, Rhys Webb; Marc Thomas, Scott Baldwin, Dmitri Arhip, Rynier Bernardo, Alun Wyn Jones (Capt), James King, Justin Tipuric, Tyler Ardron
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Replacements: Sam Parry, Gareth Thomas, Daniel Suter, Dan Lydiate, Sam Lewis, Martin Roberts, Sam Davies, Andrew Bishop
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Ulster: L Ludik; T Bowe, D Cave, L Marshall, M Allen; I Humphreys, R Pienaar; A Warwick, R Best (Capt), D Fitzpatrick; D Tuohy, F vd Merwe; R Diack, C Ross, R Wilson.
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Replacements: R Herring, C Black, B Ross, A O'Connor, S Reidy, P Marshall, S Olding, P Nelson.
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