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I hope star performers don't stop coming to Belfast

By Jonathan Bradley

Ulster hero Ruan Pienaar has said he hopes his enforced exit will not deter future imports from joining the province.

The hugely influential star will not be allowed to extend his tenure at Kingspan Stadium when his current deal runs out this summer thanks to an IRFU ruling on "succession policy".

Pienaar, who has often been used in the recruitment of prospective South African signings when Ulster displayed an interest, had expressed a strong desire to stay in the country where his family have made their home while the Kingspan outfit were wholly keen for him to stay on.

While some have voiced concerns that such treatment of a figure who gave so much to Ulster Rugby on and off the field will sour other big name stars on the idea of coming to Belfast, Pienaar says that should not be the case.

"It's a tough one," he admitted. "Hopefully this won't stop other players coming here because Ulster is a great club with great traditions.

"There's brilliant players and the squad they are building is going to do something special in the next few years.

"Hopefully it'll still be a club that appeals to players and families to come here and enjoy not only the rugby but all that Belfast and Northern Ireland has to offer.

"It's a great country with great people and hopefully a lot of big international players will still choose to come to Ulster in the future."

After asking to not be selected for South Africa's summer series against Ireland back in June, he was not named in the panel for the ongoing Rugby Championship and confirmed yesterday that his Test rugby days are over.

"I think that's probably it," he said. "I'm happy with my decision and I'll put my energy into Ulster now and whatever is waiting in the next year or two.

"I'm still supporting the guys but that's probably the end."

Pienaar appeared for the Springboks on 88 occasions, and has both a World Cup winners medal and a series win over the Lions on his CV.

With his last international outing coming against Argentina in the third place play-off of the 2015 World Cup, Pienaar retires as the seventh most capped South African in history.

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