Pienaar 'forced' to leave Ulster
NEWS: Springbok scrumhalf Ruan Pienaar has been forced to leave Irish province Ulster.
The Pro12 outfit confirmed that Pienaar will leave the club at the end of the 2016/17 season, because of Irish Rugby Football Union succession policy.
The club and the player were very keen for him to extend his stay in Belfast, with Operations Director Bryn Cunningham and Director of Rugby Les Kiss working with the IRFU over the past six months to reach a desirable outcome.
Unfortunately, a contract extension was not possible because of the IRFU's succession policy.
Pienaar has scored 777 points in 118 competitive games for Ulster and he was a starring member of the squad that reached the 2012 European Rugby Champions Cup Final.
"I am not moving on for a new adventure or for financial reasons, I wanted to stay and I know that Ulster did everything it could to keep me in Belfast," Pienaar said.
"Ulster is special to me and my family now, and I would like to thank my wife, Monique, for coming here to support me and for helping to make it home for us.
"I would also like to thank all of the players and staff at Ulster, the supporters and the general public, for their support and encouragement since our arrival. It has been brilliant to see the progress that the organisation has made in recent years, particularly with the new facilities here at Kingspan Stadium.
"The club has given me a lot and I'd like to be in a position to give something back in the future if possible.
"I have many great memories of my time here and I have made some brilliant friends within rugby and outside of it. It is sad that this will be my last season as an Ulster player but I will be doing everything to ensure that we make it a successful campaign."
Ulster Director of Rugby Les Kiss was understandably disappointed with the outcome.
"Ruan has been an outstanding servant to Ulster over the past six years and he will be a huge loss for us next season," Kiss said.
"For me, he is a fantastic player, but he is an even better person, who is much-loved by his team-mates, the staff and management, and the wider rugby community here in Ulster.
"His influence within the squad, both on and off the field, is truly remarkable; whether that is through match-winning contributions, or mentoring the promising players coming through our pathway. Indeed, he has played a big part in helping us to develop a large group of talented young backline players who have gone on to represent Ireland in recent years.
"He is a consummate professional and I have absolutely no doubt that he will give everything to the Ulster cause for the rest of the season. Our hope is that he will one day return to the Province to continue to have a positive impact on rugby in Ulster."
Shane Logan, Ulster Rugby's Chief Executive, added: "I, personally, will miss having him around Kingspan Stadium, but I am looking forward to seeing what he will deliver for us over the course of this season, and the door is open for a return in the future."
David Nucifora, IRFU Performance Director, stated: "The IRFU recognises the contribution that Ruan Pienaar has made to Ulster over the seven year period he will have been with the club.
"However, the IRFU informed Ulster during the 2015/16 season that it would not sanction a further extension of his contract.
"It is vital for both Ulster and Ireland that the province develop indigenous talent in this position and an extension of Ruan's contract would further prevent Irish qualified Ulster players from maximising their developmental potential and becoming stars for both Ulster and Ireland."