GUINNESS PRO12: Les Kiss lauds Ruan Pienaar as player and clubman at Ulster

Ruan Pienaar
Ruan Pienaar

Five years after joining Ulster from Natal Sharks South African international Ruan Pienaar is still regarded as the Province’s highest profile signing.

The 31-year-old will make his 100th appearance for Ulster when he runs out in Dublin’s RDS on Friday night for an Irish derby Guinness PRO12 clash against Leinster.

The Springbok World Cup winner in 2007 was part of the squads again in 2011 and more recently this season when he won a bronze medal after the Boks defeated Argentina in the 3rd/4th place play-off having lost to eventual winners New Zealand in the semi-finals.

Pienaar signed a further three year extension to his existing deal in 2013 which will see him staying with Ulster until at least the summer of 2017.

But the classy scrumhalf revealed in the News Letter on November 12 that he would certainly consider staying with the Province if they still wanted him.

“My family and I are very happy here in Northern Ireland,” Pienaar said.

“I guess if they (Ulster) did not think I was too old and they thought I could still add value here, then definitely I would be thinking about it.

“I still have two seasons on my contact so we will see.

“For now I just want to come back into the team, perform well and be consistent in my performance and add value where I can.”

Ulster’s director of rugby, Les Kiss, admits that Pienaar is right up there with the best in terms of overseas signings.

“Without a doubt he is up there with the best. What he’s delivered for three or four years now is not just a quality halfback, but a quality clubman as well.

“You can see he is well liked. he’s respected what this place means.

“I would say the same of all our non-Irish qualified guys.

“They respect the environment, they respect what it stands for and Ruan is a top bloke in that respect, but a pretty good football too.

“I am very impressed with him and enjoy working with him.

“I knew Ruan a little bit when I worked in South Africa. I knew his dad. Around 2001 I knew what talent he had as a youngster.

“Getting to know him now that bit more intimately and him obviously getting to know me as well and my style.

“He is a big game player!”

Prior to signing his most recent extension, Pienaar was linked to big money spenders Toulon, the French club who have won the last two European Champions Cup.

Pienaar told BBC Sport NI: “I do not regret turning down Toulon. Staying with Ulster was a decision I made with my heart.

“I didn’t want to break something that was special to me.

“It might have been nice playing with some of the world’s best players at Toulon but Ulster was somewhere I felt I really needed to be at this stage of my career.”

After last weekend’s European Champions Cup defeat by Saracens Pienaar said the team had to get over it quickly.

“We have to get that out of our system and put on a good performance away in Dublin.

“We are still positive because there is a lot to play for.”

“It is fantastic to be making my 100th cap with Ulster,” added Pienaar, who has 88 caps with South Africa.

“It is a big derby game as well in Dublin against Leinster and we all know how big those games are.

“It is already a massive game and we are excited about it.”

Pienaar has been impressive for Ulster over the past few seasons and is regarded as one of the top half backs in the PRO12.

He was named PRO12 player of the year in his first season with Ulster.

However, Pienaar longs to win a trophy with the Province having come close both in the PRO12 and European Cup.