Days after ‘the one that got away’ saga - I refer to Cardiff Blues back row ace Xavier Rush’s change of heart with regard to remaining at Cardiff rather than joining Ulster — landing Ruan Pienaar has come as a timely boost.
Ulster supporters can thank the Press and controversial Springboks coach Peter de Villiers for this fact now having been confirmed for it was as a result of his disclosure — in a South African newspaper, The Sunday Tribune — that the 26-year-old half-back was on his way to Belfast that Ulster felt moved to admit that Pienaar is joining on a two-year contract.
When the same story appeared in the Belfast Telegraph back on April 15 the response from Ravenhill was less one of affirmation and more one of indignation, but no matter.
The reaction to our earlier revelation that Timoci Nagusa was on his way to Montpellier, more than two months ahead of Ulster’s confirmation of that move, had drawn a similar reaction. Again, no matter.
Ulster are “delighted to announce that Ruan will be joining (Ulster Rugby) on a two-year contract”. And so they should be for they have signed a quality player who can perform equally well at numbers nine, 10 or 15.
The fact that he will be joined by his South African club and international colleague and fellow-newcomer, Johann Muller and that already-ensconced tight-head BJ Botha came to Belfast via an identical route augurs well for Ulster’s prospects in the next two seasons.
Kindred spirits together far from home is a better scenario than lost souls from distant shores trying to adapt and acclimatise as not-so-splendidly isolated individuals.
With All Black Rush reneging on the deal to which he signed up in February, Ulster still have to confirm that they will not be attempting to hold him to that contract.
They should do so now.
Regardless of what Ulster may feel about Rush’s decision to remain with Cardiff, he won’t be coming here.
Nor, if he has any doubts, should he — and I offer that opinion not for his sake but for that of Ulster Rugby.
Why? Because, if one stops to think about it for more than a millisecond, it becomes obvious that the last thing Ulster want or need is a player who doesn’t want to be there but nevertheless is forced to remain by dint of a contract he wishes he had never signed.
How much do you reckon Ulster would get out of him in those circumstances?
Not a lot. Certainly not £5,000 a week’s worth, which was to have been Rush’s salary.
That would be a very high principle price to pay to an unwilling employee in order that he could lick his sores, reflect ruefully on his judgement and seethe with resentment.
Ulster should take the compensation, rip up the contract, inform the public of what they have done and move on.