Ulster are unbeaten at home in the Guinness PRO12 but have lost their only European game at Kingspan Stadium to Saracens and with Toulouse in town on Friday Springbok scrum half Ruan Pienaar feels there is no margin of error.
“We always emphasise at the beginning of a campaign that home games are really important and against Saracens we let ourselves down and hopefully we can step it up this weekend,” said Pienaar.
“Preparations have gone well and the guys are upbeat and are ready to put in a good performance.”
“This is a special place for us to play and if we can get off to a good start that will help us.
“A lot of teams don’t like travelling to Belfast and this is a tough place to come to, teams need to fear coming here and as players we need to know that and perform like that.
“We want to make it uncomfortable for them but they are an experienced team with a lot of old heads and guys that have been playing rugby at the top level for a long time and they will be really tough opposition.”
Ulster lost 27-9 to Saracens to start their European campaign.
“I think Saracens are an awkward team to play, they don’t play a lot of rugby, their kicking and chasing game is brilliant and they just squeezed us,” recalled Pienaar.
“We had a go for 60 minutes then we made a couple of mistakes in our decision making but this is a different animal we are facing this weekend, we have watched looks of footage and hopefully we can put up a good performance.”
Toulouse have a star studded back row and Pienaar knows they have to stop them getting over the gain line
“It will be a massive challenge for our pack this week, we know they have some massive forwards in the pack and their set piece goods well and they have good ball carries so we need to stop that momentum.”
“We are happy with how the defence has gone, Joe has been working us hard and the guys are working for each other.
“I think that is one of the pleasing aspects of the game, we like the ball in hand and we have to be a bit more clinical in our attack and score some nice tries in the next couple of games.”
Ulster snapped their two game losing streak with a win last week over Edinburgh and Pienaar got special praise from opposition coach Alan Solomons.
“It was pleasing to get the win but we know we left a couple of tries out there and probably should have got the bonus point we’ll take the win.
“He has coached for a long time so it is nice to have compliments like that but at the end of the day it is a team performance.
“I thought the guys handled that breeze really well, in the first half we should have scored a couple more tries to give ourselves a bigger buffer going into the breeze in the second half but we played well against it.”
Ulster have yet two win back to back games this season and Pienaar believes it is important to kick on from the Edinburgh result in spite of a mounting injury list.
“That is the beauty about sport you have got to put pressure on yourself and I think this group can handle it, there is a lot of good stuff that Les and Doaky have brought in and it shows on the pitch and I think we’ll only get better as the season goes on.”
“I think we lost a couple of key players and that will challenge our squad but it gives guys the opportunity to step in and make the difference and make the jersey their own.”
and that is the challenge of sport and a challenge that we have to face now and hopefully we handle it well.”
After helping South Africa to a bronze medal finish at the World Cup Pienaar was back later than Paddy Jackson and he is happy to let the Irish international kick at goal.
“I normally get back later than Jacko and he has been kicking well this season so I’m just not going to take over as long as he kicks well I’ll support him with that, I’ll keep training and put in the hours but he is doing well so I’m not going to take the duties off him we’ll he’s doing well.”