Cheetahs skipper Ruan Pienaar will arrive in Ireland this week looking to turn a poignant family anniversary into on-field success in the Guinness PRO14.

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Leinster are currently on a record-setting 16-match winning streak that has earned them the No1 seeding for the Heineken Champions Cup knockout stages and has them eleven points clear of Ulster and 16 ahead of Cheetahs in Conference A in the league. 

However, Pienaar will look to guide Cheetahs to a rare away success on Saturday, the same day that marks the first anniversary of the tragic death of his sister Rene at the age of just 38. 

She was killed in a four-vehicle accident on a road on South Africa’s Western Cape and the effect on the ex-Springbok was profound, resulting in him moving back to Bloemfontein from Montpellier in order to be closer to his parents and extended family.  

Pienaar told RugbyPass in November: “It brings life into perspective and what really is important. It is important to have that in a rugby environment as well. Although it is our job and we want to do it as well as we possibly can, there are bigger things in life and behind the rugby player there is a person and they go through all the different challenges outside of rugby as well.”

(Continue reading below…)

Ruan Pienaar appeared in Nadolo, the RugbyPass documentary on Fijian legend Nemani Nadolo

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Cheetahs’ fixture at Leinster is the first part of a two-part visit to Ireland, as they face Pienaar’s former club Ulster the following Friday, and the ex-Test level scrum-half is hopeful of a winning start. “They [Leinster] have built something really good over the last few years and they keep the ball really well,” said Pienaar before flying out from Bloemfontein. 

“Their workrate is good and they work really hard for each other, so it is hard to find a weakness but there has to be a day where you can pounce. For us, we have to focus on our game, what we want to do and hopefully that is good enough to get a result.

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“We know they have a big squad of quality players that they can choose from. They have in the past had players away in Six Nations and they haven’t dropped in terms of their quality. As a young group of players, we see it as a massive challenge and we are looking forward to playing them.

“That is why we play in the competition – we get challenged every week and that is how we grow as a team. So yes, we expect a tough Leinster team even though they may be missing a few players.

“We know we will be challenged, we will be tested and for us as a group that is something we really need at this stage. We are positive, we have worked really hard in the last couple of weeks and we have to just focus on what we have to do and how to handle those pressure moments and score when we have the chance.”

WATCH: The Rugby Pod reflects on the round two weekend in the Guinness Six Nations 

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