The New Year has brought a bonus for Ulster Rugby supporters with the news that scrum-halves Ruan Pienaar and Paul Marshall have each signed new two year contracts, keeping them at the club until June 2014.
Ulster Director Rugby David Humphreys commented:
“We have been negotiating to retain Ruan since the summer and are delighted that he has chosen to extend his contract with us. He has been instrumental in the team’s success since joining us in 2010. He’s a true match winner and a total professional from his attitude in the gym, through the mentoring role he plays with younger players to the quality of performance he delivers consistently each week.
Paul took his opportunity at the start of the season when Ruan was at the World Cup and has really impressed with his performances, evident last week when he was involved in three of the four tries Ulster scored against Edinburgh.
Paul has made a huge contribution to the squad in the last few years both on and off the field.
Scrum-half is such a key position within the team that every squad needs two quality players in this position and we are delighted that both have chosen to remain with Ulster Rugby”
Ruan Pienaar, who was part of South Africa’s recent Rugby World Cup Squad and has been capped 51 times for the Springboks and made his debut in the 2006 Tri-Nations against New Zealand.
Born in Bloemfontein and the son of former Springbok fullback Gysie Pienaar, Ruan joined Ulster on a two year contract at the beginning of the 2010/11 season from the Natal Sharks. He made his debut on 1st October 2010 against the Glasgow Warriors scoring all of Ulster’s points in their 19-17 win over the Scottish opposition.
At the end of his first season in Ulster colours he not only collected the Player of the Year Award at the end of season Heineken Ulster Rugby Awards but also scooped the Magners League Player of the Year Award, voted for by his peers, and was named in the Magners League Team of the Year.
"I've really enjoyed my first two seasons here and when the opportunity came to extend the deal I was very excited. I've made some good friends here and I've really enjoyed the rugby side. The people of Belfast have welcomed myself and my family with open arms and so it was an easy decision in the end." commented Pienaar.
Paul Marshall joined Ulster Rugby on a full contract at the start of the 2006-07 season having graduated from the Ulster Academy. He made his full senior squad debut that season against Newport Gwent Dragons, although had previously played with the Ulster seniors in the pre-season friendlies of 05/06. A former pupil of Methodist College, Paul has international honours at U21, A and Sevens level.
His lively play around the fringes at ruck time make him a constant threat to the opposition and his defensive work is another key attribute of his game, despite being the lightest player in the squad.
“I think with the way things have been going the last number of weeks we’re really moving forward and when you look at the strength of our squad and the players we’re signing it’s showing a real intent from the management right the way down that we want to compete with the best teams in Europe and be the best team in Europe. From my point of view I’m happy to be here and am really enjoying my rugby at the minute.” commented Marshall.