Ruan Pienaar to leave Ulster

Ruan Pienaar

Ruan Pienaar will leave Belfast at the end of the season

Ulster Rugby have today confirmed that influential scrum half Ruan Pienaar will leave the club at the end of the season after seven years with the club.

Both Ulster and Pienaar wished for him to extend his stay at the Kingspan Stadium, but due to the IRFU’s succession policy an agreement could not be reached with the union, despite the best efforts of both Les Kiss and Bryn Cunningham.

The former Springbok was linked with a move to Montpellier leading to speculation over his future.

Pienaar has scored 777 points for his adopted province in 118 appearances and has made a huge difference to this Ulster squad since his arrival in 2009.

“I am not moving on for a new adventure or for financial reasons,” Pienaar said. “I wanted to stay and I know that Ulster did everything they could to keep me in Belfast.

“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 Rugby, 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.”

Having done everything that he could to try and convince the IRFU to let him stay, Director of Rugby Les Kiss couldn’t hide his disappointment that the Springbok would be leaving.

He said, “Ruan has been an outstanding servant to Ulster Rugby over the past six years and he will be a huge loss for us next season. 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:

“Ruan’s exploits on the pitch are well-documented, but perhaps his biggest contribution since his arrival in Ulster has been his work with the local community,” Logan commented.

“He has been freely giving of so much of his time and he has helped to inspire young people across the Province, not only in rugby, but in their everyday lives. That impact is something that cannot be easily measured.

“We have continued to show that we have the resources, and more importantly, a positive environment and ethos, that makes us an attractive proposition for prospective players.

“This culture was one of the main reasons why Ruan, among others, was attracted to the club in the first place and why he was so keen to stay.

“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.”