While adapting to home training was fairly simple, Pienaar admits that home schooling has undoubtedly been the most challenging aspect of being restricted to home.
For Pienaar, however, the family time has been special, especially given the Toyota Cheetahs’ demanding Guinness PRO14 travel schedule before the lockdown.
“It was quite easy to switch into home training mode because it was something new and because, as players, we have to ensure that remain fit,” said Pienaar.
“We have been receiving weekly training programmes from our conditioning coach, and with the lockdown now on Level 4, we have a new programme that includes running and cycling over longer distances, which I am really looking forward to.”
He added: “Before the lockdown we travelled a fair bit, so it has been fantastic to spend quality time with my family.
“I have three children (aged eight, five and two), who have been keeping me busy, and in between the training and family time, there has been home schooling, which has probably been the most challenging part of lockdown.
“My daughter generally has an online class in the morning, and later in the day my wife and I have to guide her through the work,” he said with a chuckle.
“The interesting bit is that she expects us to be able to explain things similarly to the way her teacher does, so we have had to explain that we are not teachers and that we are doing our best.”
Pienaar is pleased to be back in South Africa and around family in Bloemfontein, but he says Belfast – where he was based for seven years while playing for Ulster – will always be a special place.
“It is really good to be back in South Africa and to see the sunshine regularly again, although Belfast will always be a special place for us,” said Pienaar.
“My wife and I started our family there, we have great friends there, and it was our home for a long time.
“But it is really nice to be so close to our families here, and the Cheetahs accepted me with open arms, so I we are very happy.
“We have a great group of young players, who enjoying playing and training together and who are excited to be part of the Guinness PRO14, so I am looking forward to getting back on the field with them when lockdown is over.”
The veteran Springbok, who earned 88 Test caps between 2006 and 2015, said the biggest differences between playing in the Guinness PRO14 for Ulster and the Toyota Cheetahs are the travelling and weather conditions.
“Being a Northern Hemisphere competition, the South African sides travel a lot more,” he said.
“Travel is fairly simple in the UK for the teams based there because you would travel the day before a match and return home directly after, so I was away for one night when I played for Ulster.
“The other aspect that I had to get used to was training in warm weather and going to play in cold and wet conditions, but despite that, is fantastic to be part of this competition.”
With the 2019/20 season suspended indefinitely, Pienaar said one of the most disappointing aspects of the competition coming to a halt after 13 rounds was that they were unable to play in front of their home crowd as much as they would have liked to.
“The last time we played at home was in February, so we were really looking forward to the six matches games in Bloemfontein,” said Pienaar.
“When the competition was suspended we had a shot at advancing to the playoffs, and although it was sad for things to be placed on hold then, it was the best decision. The COVID-19 pandemic is bigger than sport and the safety of everyone involved is of paramount importance.”