Johann Muller’s one-year contract extension is proof of Ulster Rugby’s faith in him — and his in them.
News of a 12-month add-on will have surprised no-one. It has, however, delighted everyone who knows anything about the game. And quite a few others who don’t.
For from the moment the former Springboks captain set foot in Ulster last summer he has been impressing people, and not only in rugby circles.
While his work at community level has endeared him to those who have met him in that role, his professionalism and clean-cut image have made him a sponsors’ dream.
The ease with which he handles media responsibilities has earned him the respect of journalists, too.
The former Natal Sharks lock enlisted as an Ulster player after being persuaded by Director of Rugby David Humphreys of the ambitions at Ravenhill.
Muller arrived in Belfast last summer, initially on a two-year deal. Yesterday it became three, meaning he will be with Ulster until June 2013.
Last week at the Ulster Rugby Awards gala he walked off with two of the night’s most prestigious titles, the Heineken Personality of the Year and the Supporters’ Club’s Player of 2010/11.
His debut season saw him start in all but four of Ulster’s 30 competitive fixtures and spend 2,027 minutes on the pitch. As well as that he captained the team when injury or international calls left Rory Best unavailable.
Last week Best lauded his colleague’s immense contribution and the part Muller played in helping Ulster reach the last eight of the Heineken Cup for the first time since 1999, and the Magners League play-offs.
“Johann is key for us, not just in the set pieces but in his general aura around the pitch and everything he does outside the set piece,” Best said.
Muller said: “I’ve really enjoyed my first season with Ulster, not only in terms of rugby but also personally.
“The people of Northern Ireland have been great to me and my family so staying an extra year wasn’t a decision we had to think about for long.”
But in rugby terms he stressed the need for Ulster to push on.
“It was a successful season for us and we are taking steps in the right direction, but the players and the coaching staff need to keep working hard for next season,” he said.
“Teams are judged on silverware and we have nothing to show for our season. We are determined to win something for the trophy cabinet at Ravenhill next season and to do that we must keep improving.”