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Monday May 8, 2017

Ruan Pienaar bids tearful farewell to Ulster after seven years in Belfast

Ruan Pienaar bids tearful farewell to Ulster after seven years in Belfast

In what was his last game in an Ulster uniform, this past weekend South African Ruan Pienaar tearfully bid farewell and reflected on his time with the club and what the past seven years of rugby in Ireland has meant to his family.

Ulster were able to give Pienaar a good send off, beating Leinster 17-13. They first got on the board with a try from Roger Wilson, who himself was also playing in his last match before retirement. Pienaar then managed to get an assist to captain Andrew Trimble for Ulster’s second-half try. 

For Pienaar, it was a bittersweet moment as he and his family have established themselves in the community and very much wanted to remain with the club. However, the IRFU have taken the steps to end his career in Ireland once his contract expires.

No doubt, this type of situation could be argued as one of the harsher sides of professional sport. Form fades, contracts expire without renewal, or players get traded for the benefit of a club. The result has a lasting impact on player and family alike.

Speaking on Against the Head, former Ireland head coach Eddie O’Sullivan spoke highly of the Springbok halfback but also understood the reasoning of the IRFU, saying: “It’s a tough one… There’s lots of reasons why he has to go… They’re not very emotional.”

It’s been an emotional roller-coaster for both Pienaar and Ulster to be sure. 

Some of Pienaar’s Ulster teammates on the other hand, have expressed confusion as to why he must go. “As players, we’re annoyed. We dont understand the decision, to be honest. I suppose we can’t air our frustrations too much against our employers but I can totally understand the supporters’ feelings”, said Ulster centre Luke Marshall.

He also spoke about the impact Pienaar has had on the team, in particular on fly half Paddy Jackson. “You look at how the young guys came on with him. It’s hard to ignore that Paddy Jackson, playing by Ruan’s side, is now a world class out-half.”

However, things weren’t all bad for Pienaar, as he was awarded the Heineken Personality of the Year and the Ulster Rugby Supporters Club Player of the Year at Ulster Rugby’s annual awards dinner. 

He also took home the award for Try of the Season at the Guinness PRO12 awards, as voted on by the readers of

Hopefully, this classy individual will be able to continue his good work in France as he and his family must now look to turn the page on their impactful time in Ulster.

UPDATE: Pienaar and Charles Piutau will both play for the Barbarians against England on May 28th. They will then switch sides and represent the Barbarians against Ulster on June 1st.

Guinness PRO12 Try of the Season:

Ulster Rugby Awards Dinner:

Lap of honour:

Credit: clarkinfamily/Ulster Rugby/PRO12 Rugby/Conor Jones



  • reality
    9:11 PM 12/05/2017

    There's a difference though. Didn't you hear that Payne is Irish now? He worked in the country for three years so he automatically became Irish. Pienaar had the misfortune in this situation to have played for South Africa, which impeded his ability to become as Irish as Payne.

  • katman
    7:20 AM 11/05/2017

    That's a good point. When you needed one "magician" and one "speedster/bruiser" for your backline bench, he was an easy pick. But when you could pick out and out specialists, other names came into the mix.

  • 10stonenumber10
    3:24 PM 10/05/2017

    Pienaar's problem was his versatility. A player comfortable at both 9 and 10 is pretty rare. One that can play 13 and 15 as well is even rarer. He swapped positions for the Sharks on an almost weekly basis, he was spread too thin so never had a proper chance to nail down one shirt for SA. As a multi positionalist your best hope is a spot on the bench, he was a brilliant fit for the attritional SA 5 forwards and 2 backs bench, the introduction of a full front row 8 man bench damaged his chances

  • rugbydump
    12:40 PM 10/05/2017

    Agreed. It's incredible how differently he's viewed up north compared with in South Africa

  • im1
    7:40 AM 10/05/2017

    Meanwhile the faithful servant Payne gets selected by the lions. Surely pienaar would have been worth so much to Ulster and Ireland by staying in Ireland and helping mentor young 9s rather than sticking them in at the deep end without his experience to help guide them?

  • katman
    2:23 PM 09/05/2017

    Classy player who never really got the credit he deserved back home. And by home I mean the Boks, not the Sharks (they still love him in Durban). Admittedly much of his career overlapped with Fourie du Preez, and that's a tough gig. But the fickle Bok fans could never really agree on Ruan.


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Ruan Pienaar bids tearful farewell to Ulster after seven years in Belfast | RugbyDump - Rugby News & Videos