Ulster Rugby has been given a boost early in the new year with the news that scrum-halves Ruan Pienaar and Paul Marshall have signed new two year contracts to tie them to the club until 2014.
The pair are an important part of the Ulster team and keep the scrum half position a strong one, mixing the home grown talent of Marshall with the international standard of Pienaar.
Ulster Rugby Director and former Ireland international David Humphries expressed his satisfaction with the new deals, stating “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”.
“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”, Humphries revealed.
“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.”
Humphries went on to praise Marshall’s contribution to the team after receiving opportunities through injuries to Pienaar; “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.”
The 27 year-old South African Pienaar has 51 caps for the Springboks since making his debut against New Zealand in 2006.
He has collected a number of personal accolades since joining Ulster including Ulster’s Player of the Year in 2010 and the Magners League Player of the Year for the same season.
“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”, Pienaar commented on his new deal.
Marshall echoed Pienaar’s sentiments and spoke of excitement surrounding the Ulster team, especially in the Heineken cup, claiming “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”.
Ulster are currently at 20 with Betfair to win the Heineken Cup, sitting on top of Pool 4, two points ahead of Leicester.