Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 23 August 2014

The Pienaars keep the faith - in Ulster Rugby and Northern Ireland

Good-living golden boy of Ulster pens new deal in vote of confidence for city

Ruan Pienaar's wife Monique picks up a shirt for 16-month-old daughter Lemay
Ulster's Ruan Pienaar and family rush through airport

It's a vote of confidence not just in Ulster Rugby but Northern Ireland too.

Ulster star Ruan Pienaar has picked Belfast as the city he wants to live and play in, over the warmer climes of Toulon in the south of France, or elsewhere.

The South African scrum-half has just signed a three-year contract extension with Ulster that will keep him, wife Monique and their 18-month-old daughter Lemay on our shores until at least summer 2017.

The Pienaar family are big fans of Belfast and love life here so much that Ruan has forfeited better wages and, let's face it, much better weather, to stay in Northern Ireland.

Not that his new earnings are anything to be sniffed at.

It's been reported he has become the highest-paid foreign player on the island of Ireland, after signing a £1.2m three-year contract.

Ruan and Monique, who married in 2009, are a committed Christian couple, who have embraced the strong religious community here, including bible study groups.

It's understood they are members of the Strandtown Christian Fellowship in east Belfast and have built many friendships through their faith.

It's thought the faith community they belong to was one of the major reasons for the family deciding to stay.

In a previous interview Ruan said: "I have always believed, with my Christianity, that there's so much more to life than rugby.

"I said to my wife before we came here that we had to be strong in our faith, and I believe that God gave me a door to walk through here at Ulster.

"Being here gives me an enormous sense of purpose. I am not just here for rugby, I'm here to touch lives."

The 29-year-old Springbok international has been at Ulster since the start of the 2010/11 season and says he is thrilled to be staying at Ravenhill for the next few years, as his family is "happy and settled" in Belfast and he is looking forward to "helping the team compete for silverware in the coming years".

"My family is settled in nicely and my wife is happy," he said.

"We've got a little girl that's been born in Belfast.

"It hasn't been easy, but I've got peace of mind that I've made the correct decision."

Meanwhile, Ulster's director of rugby, David Humphreys, is among those extremely pleased that Ruan is extending his time with Ulster.

"Ruan's decision to commit to three more years at Ravenhill is a huge endorsement of what we are doing at Ulster and I have no doubt that he will be a key part of our success in the coming seasons," he said.

Profile

Ruan Pienaar, the son of former Springbok fullback Gysie Pienaar, has been with Ulster Rugby since the 2010/11 season.

He has scored 510 points in 63 games and has been a stand-out performer in both the RaboDirect PRO12 and Heineken Cup.

The 29-year-old, who can play at scrumhalf or outhalf, has won 71 international caps for South Africa, the latest of which came in the Rugby Championship decider against the All Blacks on Saturday.

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