Pienaar's new Ulster deal puts spotlight back on IRFU's overseas policy
RUAN PIENAAR'S two-year contract extension with Ulster has been factored in under the IRFU's new Player Succession Policy, with Munster and Leinster understood to have been aware of the deal.
Under the Union's recruitment directives to be introduced for the 2013-14 season, the three provinces will only be allowed one non-Irish qualified (NIE) player between them in each of the 15 positions.
Thus, the South African's recapture by Ulster until the end of that season suggests he will be the designated NIE scrum-half among the three provinces in 2013/14. Leinster, through Eoin Reddan and Isaac Boss, and Munster, with Conor Murray and Tomas O'Leary, already have Ireland international scrum-halves on their books and this would have been considered by the IRFU before agreeing Pienaar's contract extension.
Under the new directive, Pienaar's contract will not be extended after 2014 and a NIE player will not be allowed as his replacement.
The Springbok has the ability to play in a number of positions along the backline and is expected to be named at out-half for Ulster's Heineken Cup clash with Leicester in Ravenhill tomorrow night following injury to Ian Humphreys.
However, Ulster director of rugby David Humphreys indicated yesterday that they see Pienaar primarily as a scrum-half as he also welcomed the re-signing of Pienaar's back-up No 9, Paul Marshall, on a two-year deal.
"We have been negotiating to retain Ruan since the summer and are delighted that he has chosen to extend his contract with us," said Humphreys. "He has been instrumental in the team's success since joining us in 2010, a true match-winner and a total professional.
"Paul took his opportunity at the start of the season when Ruan was at the World Cup and has really impressed with his performances, evident last week when he was involved in three of the four tries scored against Edinburgh.
"Scrum-half is such a key position within the team that every squad needs two quality players in this position and we are delighted that both have chosen to remain with Ulster."
Pienaar said he is happily settled in east Belfast, where he lives next to Ulster's South African second-row Johann Muller, and was delighted to stay on for two more years. "I've really enjoyed my first two seasons and, when the opportunity came to extend the deal, I was very excited," said Pienaar. "I've made good friends and I've really enjoyed the rugby."