Leinster’s South African star Zane Kirchner says Ruan Pienaar has been left “heartbroken” by the IRFU decision to block Ulster’s plans to re-sign the star.
Pienaar, the 88-times capped Springbok, was desperate to prolong his stay with Ulster, whom he joined in 2010, but David Nucifora, the IRFU High Performance Director, rejected the province’s request to re-sign the 32-year-old, telling the province to focus on homegrown talent.
Both club and player wanted the South African to stay on and continue to assist with the development of younger players from within the club, but the IRFU would not budge, and this will be his last season at Ravenhill.
“I think Ruan has got much love for Ulster and the environment and the place that he’s been there. It’s like a second home to him,” said Kirchner. “
Apart from South Africa, it’s a home away from home. He’s probably a bit heartbroken and it’s not good to hear [the situation] he finds himself in now.
“But I think, as a professional and knowing him quite well, he’s quite strong and he will make a positive contribution this season.
“And, whatever lies ahead for him [after this season] I think he’ll choose the best option for him and his family.”
Kirchner is keen to prolong his own time in Ireland, despite seeing Pienaar denied the same opportunity. Kirchner’s current deal expires at the end of the 2016/17 season, but the 31-times capped South African is happy to stay should Leinster make him an offer.
His experience has been a welcome addition to youthful Leinster XVs this season, including the likes of 21-year-old centre Garry Ringrose and 20-year-old outhalf Joey Carbery.
“We try to help each other as much as we can,” Kirchner said. “If we can pass the knowledge on, it’s quite good. Because at the end of the day you need to know rugby’s not going to end with you as an individual.
“There’s always going to be new talent, new faces. As long as you can pass on something it’s quite positive. Not just for you, but the next guy in the environment.”
Meanwhile Ulster’s Ireland midfield trio Stuart McCloskey (foot), Stuart Olding (groin) and Luke Marshall (concussion) will be absent from this week’s Guinness PRO12 visit of the Ospreys on Saturday evening. But those blows could be compensated by the return of wingers Andrew Trimble, Tommy Bowe and Craig Gilroy who all trained fully with the squad yesterday.
Ulster, perched at the top of the table after their fourth consecutive win last weekend in the away victory over Glasgow, are more than overloaded with talent behind the scrum.
“We’ve got a pretty decent squad for consideration on Saturday,” stressed forwards coach Allen Clarke, who said that McCloskey was in a recovery boot with a foot injury as was Paddy Jackson but the fly-half’s problem is not a worry.
“Paddy is grand. It was just precautionary. It’s quite common now that guys when they are travelling on a flight, can look after any swelling immediately.
“Tommy and Andrew trained well, and it just depends on what way they recover. It was Andrew’s first session on the pitch with us this season, so we will see how it goes during the week. Craig is back but Luke won’t be at the moment duo to the return to play protocols.”
Referees Wayne Barnes and Jerome Garces will take charge of Munster’s opening two games in the European Champions Cup.
Barnes takes charge of the October 16 clash against Racing 92 in the Stade Yves-du-Manoir while Garces will officiate when Munster welcome Glasgow Warriors to Thomond Park on October 22nd. Irish referees, John Lacey, George Clancy and Andrew Brace are also on the roster for the opening weekend.
Champions Cup - Referees for opening two rounds:
P1: Glasgow Warriors v Leicester Tigers, (M Raynal (Fra); Racing 92 v Munster, (W Barnes (Eng); P2:Wasps v Zebre Rugby, (A Brace (Ire);Connacht v Toulouse, (L Pearce (Eng); P3:RC Toulon v Saracens, (J Lacey (Ire); Scarlets v Sale Sharks, (R Poite (Fran); P4:Leinster v Castres Olympique, (M Carley (Eng); P4: Northampton Saints v Montpellier, (N Owens (Wal); P5:Bordeaux-Begles v Ulster, (JP Doyle (Eng); Exeter Chiefs v ASM Clermont Auvergne, (G Clancy (Ire).
P1 :Munster v Glasgow Warriors, (J Garces (Fra); Leicester Tigers v Racing 92, (M Mitrea (Ita); P2: Toulouse v Wasps, (J Lacey (Ire); Zebre v Connacht, (M Raynal (Fra); P3: Sale Sharks v RC Toulon, (B Whitehouse (Wal); Saracens v Scarlets, (P Gauzere (Fra); P4: Castres Olympique v Northampton Saints, (I Davies (Wal);Montpellier v Leinster, (L Pearce (Eng); P5: ASM Clermont Auvergne v Bordeaux-Begles, (G Garner (Eng); Ulster Rugby v Exeter Chiefs, (A Ruiz (Fra).
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