Rugby

Shane Horgan Blasts The IRFU's Decision To Not Extend Ruan Pienaar's Ulster Stay

Shane Horgan Blasts The IRFU's Decision To Not Extend Ruan Pienaar's Ulster Stay

Ruan Pienaar's eventual departure from Ulster Rugby isn't just bad news for rugby fans up in Belfast, it could undermine the entire provincial setup in Ireland according to Shane Horgan.

The South African scrumhalf has made a massive impact to Ulster since first joining up with the province seven years ago, becoming a focal point of the side which reached the final of the Heineken Cup (as it was called back then) in 2012. Aged just 32, Pienaar still clearly has a lot to offer Ulster Rugby but the IRFU's policy of developing homegrown talent means that the 88 times capped Springbok will leave next summer and potentially strengthen a rival team in England or France.

Horgan believes that the IRFU's decision to jettison the half-back will lead to other potential foreign imports into the Irish game thinking twice before signing a contract to play rugby in this country.

Ruan Pienaar's been there for quite a number of years, he's performed very well, he's a key member of their culture and has helped developed that. There's some risks in that it sends out a bad message to other overseas players. He's come and done the right thing, he's built a life in Belfast. It's never been just a money deal for him. He's invested in the community there, he's invested in the club.

From that perspective you've got to be wary that you don't stop similar players doing the same thing. All the overseas players that have been successful in Ireland have totally embraced the life. The ones that haven't been successful are the ones who have come for money. So it's important not to dissuade other players from building a life here.

David Nucifora, the IRFU's performance director, defended the decision to not allow Ulster to renew the player's contract, saying that it is the responsibility of the union to "develop indiginous talent in this position".

After Eoin Reddan's retirement and with Isaac Boss moving back to New Zealand, Ireland's scrum-half options are shallow. Connacht's Kieran Marmion appears to be second choice now behind Conor Murray, with Leinster's Luke McGrath continuing to develop nicely. James Hart's potential, though, appears to have stagnated in France, though his recent move to Racing may be just what he needs to recapture the form of a couple of seasons ago.

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Luke Marshall, Pienaar's understaudy at Ulster, has barely got a look-in over the years at Ravenhill and it is likely that his lack of development may be the impetus for the IRFU's decision.

Horgan, though, still has his reservations about the policy.

If there was a player really knocking on the door in that position and that was clear, then fine, but that's not the case at the moment. You've got to think about the development of the entire squad. If you take out a key player at nine and you don't have an indigenous player to perform at that level, then you're compromising maybe the development of the whole squad. And you may have to sign someone anyway.

I understand the philosophy behind it, but it's not just a case of a foreign player leaving means automatically we'll have an international nine slotting in. If players there aren't good enough to be pushing consistently, I'm not sure that's going to change just because you give someone more game time.

John Balfe

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