Ulster scrum-half Ruan Pienaar admits it is disappointing that he has been forced to find a new club for the start of next season. The South African international has been at the Belfast-based outfit since 2010 and the province wanted to extend his stay.
However, the Irish Rugby Union are always looking to develop young academy talent, particularly with the half-back stocks in short supply at the moment, and Pienaar has become one of the victims of their agreement.
He said: “It wasn’t in my planning to make a big move at this stage of my career as I’m getting to the end of it. I’ve loved my time at Ulster but you’ve got to respect the decision they’ve made.
“I’ve got six months left and for me it’s just about enjoying it as much as I can and trying to play as well as I can in the games I’ve got left for them.
“It’s been an unbelievable journey, I never thought I would stay with them for this long. The fans, the people and the rugby part of it have been incredible and to see how the club has grown over the last six or seven seasons has been phenomenal.”
Despite the frustration of having to leave, Pienaar was part of a side that reached the Heineken Cup final in 2012.
The Pro12 teams struggled in the revamped Champions Cup last season but, although an injury-stricken Ulster have been ousted, most sides have come back strongly in 2016/17 and the 88-times capped Springbok has seen a development in the league.
“The competition between all 12 teams has gone from strength-to-strength,” he added. “Since I’ve arrived here you can see the growth of all the teams.
“It’s a really competitive league at the minute and we can see the Pro12 teams doing really well in Europe, and it’s exciting to be a part of that.”
Ulster are 20/1 to win the Guinness Pro 12 Grand Final this season while Munster can be backed at 6/4 and Leinster at 6/4.