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

Pienaar happy with 'tough' decision to stay

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 Toulonexternal-link 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.

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.