Ulster decline to comment on reports of Ruan Pienaar’s future
South African scrumhalf said to have agreed two-year deal with Heineken Cup holders
Ulster’s Ruan Pienaar said to have agreed two-year Toulon deal. Photograph: John Dickson/Inpho
Ulster have declined to comment on reports in French Newspaper L’Equipe that their star overseas player, Ruan Pienaar, has signed for European Cup winning side Toulon. Pienaar’s contract, along with that of New Zealand prop John Afoa, backrow Nick Williams, secondrow Johan Muller as well as coach Mark Anscombe finishes at the end of this season.
A scrumhalf or an outhalf, the ubiquitous Pienaar is said to have signed with the French side, along with fellow Springbok Schalk Burger, on a two year deal after spending three years in Belfast.
With Ulster under a little early season pressure having lost their opening two league matches and travelling to Connacht on Saturday, Pienaar’s departure would represent a huge blow to the province. Afoa, who travelled home several times last season, has again gone to New Zealand, this time for a family bereavement. Ulster have not said when he is returning.
The 29-year-old Pienaar, who has 70 caps for the Springboks and whose signature was seen as something of a coup in Ravenhill, will be joining fellow South Africans Bakkies Botha, Bryan Habana, Danie Rossouw and Joe van Niekerk, while current outhalf Jonny Wilkinson is retiring at the end of this season.
Signed in 2010 by Ulster, the versatile Springbok has scored 510 points in 63 games and while Toulon’s squad contains established scrumhalves in Frederic Michalak, Michael Claassens and Sebastien Tillous-Borde, Pienaar is used to also being deployed as a outhalf and has regularly shared kicking duties with Paddy Jackson in Ulster.
Pienaar is currently with the South African squad and playing in the Rugby Championship. He started at scrumhalf for the Boks when they were beaten 25-15 by New Zealand last weekend. He is not expected back to Belfast until early October as South Africa faces Australia on September 28th and the All Blacks in their final game of the championship on October 5th
Meanwhile the Connacht Eagles v Leinster ‘A’ game, which was scheduled to be played on Thursday, was cancelled. Leinster withdrew from the game and details of a rescheduled fixture will be provided once known. It is believed that Leinster backed out of the match due to a lack of available props.