At the start of the 2010-11 season Ulster signed three South African internationals and all three would go on to instil themselves as key players over the time they were at the province. Marked as turning point for Ulster after several seasons in the abyss, they helped turn Ulster’s fortunes around as appearances in the Heineken Cup knockout stage became routine while enjoying similar success in the league.
One of those players, Pedrie Wannenburg, had a quick stint in Belfast compared to the rest, but he made his presence felt on the pitch. Signed in 2010 from South African Super Rugby franchise, The Bulls, Wannenburg made 54 appearances for Ulster scoring nine tries in his two season stay at Ravenhill. One of those tries, although fairly unspectacular, sent Ulster through to the Heineken Cup Final for the first time since 1999.
Wannenburg gave Ulster plenty of go-forward ball and formed a formidable partnership with Stephen Ferris in the back row. His performance against Munster in the 2012 Heineken Cup semi final was undoubtedly the best. His ability to disrupt the Munster ball at the breakdown helped secure a memorable afternoon for Ulster in a day where his defensive exploits were required.
Wannenburg’s ball carrying ability was as good as Stephen Ferris’ for Ulster. He rarely took a backward step, something which Ulster have struggled with in recent seasons when Marcell Coetzee has been injured.
A successful career wasn’t without its difficulties. He fell out of favour with the South African selectors just before their victorious 2007 World Cup and failed to add to his 20 caps. In South Africa, he holds an unusual record – he played a record 99 games consecutively for the Vodacom Bulls between 2002 and 2010.
He left Ulster after the 2011-12 season, going out on a high winning URSC player of the year, to join Top14 side Castres. After two seasons with Oyonnax, Pedrie turned his attention to rugby in USA with a season at Denver Stampede. Currently, he coaches Austin Elite in the MLR.