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Ruan Pienaar inspired by kids to saddle up for charity cycle Ulster farewell

By Jonathan Bradley

The final leg of Ruan Pienaar's Ulster journey will be a lengthy one as the departing rugby star today undertakes a 90km cycle in aid of Tearfund's efforts to help children at risk of trafficking across the globe.

Trafficking affects 1.2m children every year and, as a doting father to two young kids of his own, Pienaar says it was his love for Lemay (5) and Jean-Luc (3) that inspired him to get involved.

"Obviously as a dad it's something that is always close to your heart because you could never imagine something like that happening to your children," revealed the man who hopes to bring his young family back to Belfast when his playing days are done.

"You always want to protect them as much as you can but obviously in some parts of the world, maybe even in Belfast, kids are exposed to a lot of things that you wish they weren't.

"Not all kids are as protected as we wish ours to be."

The cycle aims to raise £90,000 for the charity with Pienaar, who has been hugely generous with his time throughout his seven years in Belfast, hoping to sign off with one last fund-raising effort before his summer move to France.

"Tearfund is a Christian charity that I've been involved in for a few years now," he said. "I was introduced to it by (former Ulster team-mate) Paddy McAllister. His family has had a long relationship with it.

"There's so much going on in the world and we're not always aware of all of it.

"It's always good to be involved with something outside the game, to give something back, and help kids all over the world.

"We're three weeks away from leaving Belfast and I've tried to be a positive influence around the community so to finish on this is great. Hopefully the people will come out and support us on the road."

If the route seems gruelling - Coleraine to Ballycastle and back again - Pienaar is quick to dismiss any sympathy over the challenge that awaits him this morning, largely because the concept was his own.

"I had this idea in my head for about a year and I sat down with Paul (Francis of Tearfund) a few months ago. I didn't know if I should mention it because it's a long route but it's something I wanted to do," he said,

"I'm pretty nervous because I haven't been on an actual bike for years, only the stationary ones in the gym.

"The prospects of being on a little seat for a good few hours is scaring me a bit at this stage."

He has at least managed to rope in two of his team-mates, Rob Herring and Craig Gilroy, for company.

"I don't think any of us have any experience on a proper bike," Ruan laughed. "We think we're fit athletes but this is a different type of training. I'm sure the legs will be hurting. We'll try and sit in the middle and let the experienced guys drag us along otherwise we'll be there all day.

"Every time we've seen each other we've been speaking about how nervous we are but once we finish, knowing it's for a great cause, I'm sure we'll feel better."

  • Ruan Pienaar's Cycle For Freedom begins in Coleraine at 10am. To make a donation text FREEDOM followed by £3, £5 or £10 to 70122

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