Pienaar will take Montpellier to top: Cotter
Ulster's loss will very much be Montpellier's gain when it comes to Ruan Pienaar, according to their new head coach Vern Cotter.
The Ulster legend was forced out of the province by an IRFU ruling on the "succession policy", with the governing body insisting that an Irish-qualified player wears the number nine jersey at Kingspan Stadium next season.
The 88-times Springbok who played his final game for Les Kiss's men against the Barbarians on Thursday night, ironically was coached by Cotter, with his new side very much excited by the scrum-half's imminent arrival.
The Top 14 side, backed financially by billionaire businessman Mohed Altrad, finished third in the league this season before falling to Racing 92 in the play-offs and Pienaar is not their only big name addition ahead of next year
All Black Aaron Cruden and Springbok Jan Serfontein have also signed up, while local hero Louis Picamoles was bought out of his Northampton contract to return home.
"Ruan can be a role model and we're very happy to get him," said Cotter, who coached Scotland for the past three years.
"He'll be critical in the way we shape the game, he'll make a big difference for us, along with Aaron Cruden.
"It's nice having a guy there that can help to guide young players, develop them and run the team.
"Louis Picamoles has come back home too, he's grew up there and it's where his family is.
"It's nice to get a player like that, near the end of his career and bring him back. It'll encourage the younger players and the academy players to strive to get better when they look at role-modes like that."
With the likes of Fijian star Nemani Nadolo and the Springbok Du Plessis brothers already at Altrad Stadium, Cotter is hopeful that Pienaar and Co. will make a big impact on a championship where Montpellier's best ever finish came as runners-up in 2011.
Getting back to day-to-day coaching after the on again, off again nature of the Test arena, the man who once headed up a coaching ticket at Clermont that also included Ireland's Joe Schmidt, is looking forward to working with such a talented group.
"The page turns now and everything changes going back to France," he added. "It's an exciting competition and an exciting team to be a part of. I'll try and create something that will get excitement going in the south of France.
"It's a great team and group of people so lets just see if we can get everyone on the same page."