Ulster Rugby have confirmed Ruan Pienaar will leave the club at the end of the 2016/17 season.
According to Ulster both the club and Pienaar were very keen for him to extend his stay 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 has scored 777 points in 118 competitive games for Ulster to date and he was a starring member of the squad that reached the 2012 Heineken Cup final.
"I am not moving on for a new adventure or for financial reasons - I wanted to stay and I know that Ulster Rugby did everything it could to keep me in Belfast, Pienaar told the www.ulsterrugby.com. "Ulster is special to me and my family now, and I would like to thank my wife, Monique, for coming here to support me and for helping to make it home for us.
"I would also like to thank all of the players and staff at Ulster Rugby, the supporters and the general public, for their support and encouragement since our arrival. It has been brilliant to see the progress that the organisation has made in recent years, particularly with the new facilities here at Kingspan Stadium. The club has given me a lot and I'd like to be in a position to give something back in the future if possible.
"I have many great memories of my time here and I have made some brilliant friends within rugby and outside of it. It is sad that this will be my last season as an Ulster player but I will be doing everything to ensure that we make it a successful campaign."
David Nucifora, IRFU Performance Director, stated, "The IRFU recognises the contribution that Ruan Pienaar has made to Ulster Rugby over the seven year period he will have been with the club, 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.”