Ruan Pienaar: Ulster scrum-half signs three-year deal

Ulster have agreed a new three-year contract with their star scrum-half Ruan Pienaar.

It had been reported that the 29-year-old South African would sign for Toulon  when his current contract at Ravenhill expired at the end of this season.

However, the World Cup winner has opted to stay in Belfast in a boost for the club going into the Heineken Cup.

Pienaar has not played for the province this season because of international commitments with the Springboks.

The versatile half-back only returned to Belfast on Monday, after featuring as a replacement in his country's defeat by New Zealand in the Rugby Championship title decider in Johannesburg on Saturday.

Ruan Pienaar Fact File

  • Born Bloemfontein, 10 March 1984
  • Has been part of Under-19, Under-21 and senior IRB World Cup winning squads
  • Played for Natal Sharks from 2004 to 2010, winning the Currie Cup in 2008
  • Capped 71 times for South Africa
  • Signed for Ulster in 2010
  • Named Magners League Player of the Year 2010-11

He held talks with Ulster director of rugby David Humphreys upon his arrival, and despite ongoing uncertainty over the future of the Heineken Cup, has signed a new three-year agreement.

His decision will be a huge confidence boost to the squad ahead of Friday's Heineken Cup opener against Leicester Tigers.

Two seasons ago, in his first year with Ulster, Pienaar helped the team reach the Heineken Cup final in which they were heavily beaten by Leinster.

Midway through last season, he signed a one-year extension to his original two-year deal and was instrumental in the team reaching the final of the Pro12 competition which they lost again to Leinster, although in a much closer contest.

Ulster supporters feared this would be Pienaar's third and last season at the club but he has now committed his long-term future to the province in a deal which keeps him at Ravenhill until June 2017.