Pienaar: "An outstanding servant to Ulster Rugby." Presseye/Darren Kidd/INPHO
Exit strategy

'I wanted to stay' - IRFU rules forcing Ulster star Ruan Pienaar to leave

Veteran scrum-half set to leave Ravenhill at the end of the season.

Updated 13.15

RUAN PIENAAR WILL be forced to leave Ulster at the end of the season with the IRFU’s “succession policy” blocking a further contract extension for the Springbok star.

“I am not moving on for a new adventure or for financial reasons,” Pienaar, 32, said.

“I wanted to stay and I know that Ulster Rugby did everything it could to keep me in Belfast.”

The veteran scrum-half is out of contract at the end of 2016/17, and despite efforts over the past six months, Ulster could not convince the IRFU to grant him another new deal at Ravenhill.

“The IRFU recognises the contribution that Ruan Pienaar has made to Ulster Rugby over the seven year period he will have been with the province,” performance director David Nucifora said.

“However the IRFU informed Ulster Rugby during the 2015/16 season that it would not sanction a further extension of his contract.

It is vital for both Ulster and Irish rugby 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.

A move to France could now be on the cards for Pienaar, who was linked with Top 14 side Montpellier by French website RugbyRama this week.

Pienaar joined Ulster in 2010 from the Sharks and went on to become one of the province’s most influential players, making 118 competitive appearances to date over his six seasons.

After initially signing him to a two-year deal, Ulster were then granted permission to offer him two contract extensions — in 2012, and again in 2014 — despite the IRFU rules aimed at safeguarding the development of Irish-qualified players.

“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,” Kiss said in a statement.

“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.”

He added: “Our hope is that he will one day return to the province to continue to have a positive impact on rugby in Ulster.”

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