Ulster Rugby confirmed at the end of August that Ruan Pienaar will leave the club at the end of the 2016/17 season.
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 due to the IRFU’s succession policy.
Pienaar caught up with the42 this week and stated that he feels his stay at Ulster could have been extended had the IRFU’s “succession policy” not blocked a possible deal.
He is however, determined to make the most of the time he has left with the northern province.
“Obviously, the first week when everything broke out was quite emotional, but the support from above has been fantastic.
“It is sad that this is my last season, but I’m going to enjoy the last couple of months I’ve got left here and just play as well as I possibly can. For me, that is what it is about now,”
“The emotions will probably come out closer to the end of the season and I know I only have a handful of games left, but for now it is all about trying to perform well and just enjoying it.
“After the semi-final loss against Leinster was the first time we really started negotiations, and I said I would like to stay, but the feedback from the IRFU was fairly negative from the beginning, so I knew from then on, it was going to be tough to stay.
“I guess in some ways because I have been here for so long it was bit of a disappointment that I couldn’t stay. But you can understand their opinion.
“It’s a tough one to speak about, you can’t really speak your mind.”
The IRFU’s decision came as a shock to many, including Pienaar.
“I think other people out there thought this would never happen, and that was certainly the case for me,” Pienaar continued.
“I thought it wouldn’t be a problem to stay on because this has been home to me for the last six years.
“Hopefully it won’t stop other people coming to Ulster. It’s a great club with great traditions and it still will be a club that appeals to a lot of players and families to come here and enjoy not only the rugby, but Belfast and all that Ireland has got to give.
“It’s a really special country with great people and hopefully a lot of international players will choose to come here in the future.”