RUGBY: David Humphreys believes IRFU were wrong to deny Ruan Piennar staying with Ulster

Former Ulster player and administrator David Humphreys believes South African Ruan Pienaar should have been allowed to stay with the Province.

By The Newsroom
Tuesday, 23rd May 2017, 12:11 pm
Updated Sunday, 4th June 2017, 9:35 pm
Gloucester Director of Rugby David Humphreys and former Ulster supermo
Gloucester Director of Rugby David Humphreys and former Ulster supermo

The former Ireland and Ulster outhalf and director of rugby told a BBC Sport Northern Ireland documentary about Pienaar that he should, as he wished, have been allowed to finish his career in Belfast.

The Springbok is still regarded as Ulster’s finest signing and Humphreys was instrumental in getting him to Belfast.

Pienaar was keen to continue playing with Ulster for at least another season, but the Irish Rugby Football Union’s Performance Director, David Nucifora, refused to sanction the request on the grounds that it was blocking the development of Irish-qualified players.

IRFU Performance Director David Nucifora (right)

Pienaar admits he has to accept the decision, but both he and his family have been left bitterly disappointed that they have to leave Belfast after seven years.

That was clearly evident when Pienaar played his last competitive Guinness PRO12 game in a 17-13 win over Leinster at Kingspan Stadium at the beginning of May.

In Monday night’s documentary Pienaar and his wife, Monique, talk openly about how difficult it will be to be leaving Belfast.

The Springbok is joining Top14 side, Montpellier on a three-year deal.

Ruan Pienaar with his wife Monique son Jean Luc, daughter Lemay and father Gysie

Pienaar could have tasted Top14 action earlier in his career had he not remained loyal to Ulster.

Humphreys revealed in Monday night’s BBC NI documentary that Pienaar could have trebled his salary by leaving the club in 2012 and in 2014 when he agreed extension deals.

Humphreys, now in charge of Premiership side Gloucester, said: “Throughout European rugby, it was a huge shock that the IRFU would allow someone, who has come and given so much to one club, to leave,” said Humphreys.

“We understand their policy of having local players and making sure the opportunities are there for players to come through.

Ulster's Ruan Pienaar leaves the field at Kingspan Stadium

“But I would argue strongly that in Ruan’s case, when you look at the pathway, he was not blocking any players coming through and for that reason I believe he should have been allowed to finish his career at Ulster.”

Humphreys said that when they had previously sat down to negotiate a new contract, they were aware Pienaar, then at the pinnacle of his career, had received offers from top club sides in France and England.

“You thought he was going to go when you saw the sort of money he was being offered elsewhere,” added Humphreys.

“Certainly two or three times what Ulster were able to pay him.

IRFU Performance Director David Nucifora (right)

“I suppose that is why, when turned round the other way and the opportunity to keep him was there, there’s a sense of huge disappointment that the loyalty he showed to the club has not been reciprocated.”

Ruan Pienaar with his wife Monique son Jean Luc, daughter Lemay and father Gysie
Ulster's Ruan Pienaar leaves the field at Kingspan Stadium