Friday 20 September 2019

Departing Ulster star Pienaar calls for 'consistency' in IRFU's overseas player regulations

Scrum-half looks set to join Montpellier but Taute case reopens controversy over his departure from Belfast

Ulster's Ruan Pienaar. Photo: Oliver McVeigh/Sportsfile
Ulster's Ruan Pienaar. Photo: Oliver McVeigh/Sportsfile

Jonathan Bradley

Even if the controversy surrounding Ruan Pienaar's Ulster exit shows no signs of abating, the departing star believes it's time to put the IRFU's decision to end his stay in Belfast behind him.

Undoubtedly one of the province's most talented, and popular, players of the professional era, debate still rages over the revelation at the start of this campaign that the governing body were to refuse a contract extension for the 32-year-old Springbok.

And while Ulster continue to search for a suitable replacement that will satisfy the IRFU's 'succession policy', the 2007 World Cup winner has already decided upon where he will see out his playing career.

While his new employers haven't yet announced the move - it is believed that he has joined Montpellier in the Top 14 - Pienaar (right) says he must look forward to the change in surroundings. "We have to wait for the club to be ready to announce but I know where we're going and it will be a good challenge," he said. "I think you have to see it as a new challenge. I can't be negative because of what's happened here, that I wanted to stay but I can't. You have to see the positives. It's a change and sometimes change is good. We'll take the challenge head on."

Of the greatest concern to Pienaar, is how his young family will react to the move. Having moved to Belfast with his wife Monique, the couple have since had two children, Lemay and Jean-Luc, who like their father wanted to stay in Northern Ireland.

"When I came across here it was just me and my wife, when you have kids it changes a little," Pienaar said. "You worry about them and how they'll adapt. For me and my wife, we'll adapt quickly but the kids are always in the back of your mind. You hope that they settle quickly.

"I'm really grateful for the support that me and my family have gotten. Obviously the kids are really sad but it's about enjoying the last couple of months and making the most of it.

"I think when you sit still, you can find yourself thinking about what's ahead and what's coming. I think you just have to clear your mind."

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With that in mind, Pienaar, who hopes to have his UK citizenship application completed by the summer, has paid little attention to the case of Jaco Taute but says he would like to see consistency in the IRFU's treatment of foreign imports.

Taute has impressed mightily in recent weeks for Munster, having arrived in September on a short-term deal that is due to expire on January 1.

Despite the impending return to fitness of All Black centre Francis Saili, as well as that of former Ulster player Sam Arnold, and a run of form from Rory Scannell that saw him called into the Ireland squad last month, the Reds are thought to be keen to extend the centre's stay. This would likely keep at least one Irish-qualified talent from seeing game time, the supposed reason for Pienaar's exit, even if Ulster's own South African has been in this part of the world longer.

"I haven't really heard about it or read anything about it," Pienaar said of the growing case to facilitate Taute's place in Irish rugby. "From my point of view, although I'm going to leave now, you want to see consistency in the decisions they've made. Hopefully there'll be some consistency going forward."

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