Ruan Pienaar could have 'trebled salary' by leaving Ulster

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'It's not easy explaining this to your kids' says departing Pienaar

Ulster's departing star scrum-half Ruan Pienaar turned down big-money offers from other clubs during his time in Belfast, it has been claimed.

David Humphreys, the former Director of Rugby who signed Pienaar, said the South African could have have trebled his salary by leaving Ulster.

Pienaar is now having to leave Ulster because the Irish RFU rejected a proposal to extend his contract.

They said he was blocking the development of Irish-qualified players.

Former Ireland fly-half Humphreys, now in charge of Premiership club Gloucester, was speaking on a BBC Northern Ireland programme about Pienaar.

He disagreed with the decision taken by David Nucifora, the IRFU's Performance Director.

"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.

"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.

There had been speculation that the player would be joining Toulon.

South African scrum-half Ruan Pienaar signed for Ulster in 2010
South African scrum-half Ruan Pienaar signed for Ulster in 2010

"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.

"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."

On the BBC NI programme Pienaar and his wife, Monique, talk about their disappointment and how difficult it was to tell their two young children they were leaving Belfast.

"If I could have stayed on to help young players come through the system and helped them with their careers I would have been happy to do that," said 33-year-old Pienaar.

"But the decision has been made and I need to respect that."

Pienaar has said he would like to return to Ulster in a coaching capacity at some stage.

When contacted, the IRFU said its Performance Director, David Nucifora, did not have time for a BBC interview.

But, in an IRFU statement issued last year when the decision about Pienaar was announced, he said: "The IRFU recognises the contribution that Ruan Pienaar has made to Ulster Rugby over the seven-year period he will have been with the province.

"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."

Pienaar is on BBC One Northern Ireland on Monday, 22 May at 22:45 BST and afterwards available on the BBC iPlayer.

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