The IRFU is standing over the succession policy that will see scrum-half Ruan Pienaar leave Ulster at the end of the 2016/17 season.

Earlier today Ulster confirmed that  Pienaar will leave the club, although there are hopes within the province of a return some day.

While both the club and Pienaar were keen for him to extend his stay, the IRFU’s policy means the South African will leave following six seasons in Belfast.

The policy was implemented to restrict non-Irish qualified players to one person per position at Ulster, Leinster and Munster, with the ambition of assuring a minimum of two Irish-qualified players for each position.

IRFU Performance Director David Nucifora said that while the organisation recognises Pienaar's contribution to Ulster, they had informed Ulster Rugby during the 2015/16 season that it would "not sanction a further extension of his contract."

Nucifora added: "It is vital for both Ulster and Irish rugby that the province develop indigenous talent in this position and an extension of Ruan's contract would further prevent Irish-qualified Ulster players from maximising their developmental potential and becoming stars for both Ulster and Ireland."

Speaking after the announcement was made, Pienaar said: “I am not moving on for a new adventure or for financial reasons - I wanted to stay and I know that Ulster Rugby did everything it could to keep me in Belfast.

"Our hope is that he will one day return to the Province to continue to have a positive impact on rugby in Ulster" - Les Kiss

“Ulster is special to me and my family now, and I would like to thank my wife, Monique, for coming here to support me and for helping to make it home for us.”

Director of Rugby Les Kiss was understandably disappointed with the outcome, but retains hope of Pienaar returning one day.

“He is a consummate professional and I have absolutely no doubt that he will give everything to the Ulster cause for the rest of the season. Our hope is that he will one day return to the Province to continue to have a positive impact on rugby in Ulster.”

Pienaar has scored 777 points in 118 competitive games for Ulster to date and he was a starring member of the squad that reached the 2012 Heineken Cup final.

And the Springbok was keen to acknowledge all involved with the club ahead of his final campaign.

He continued: “I would also like to thank all of the players and staff at Ulster Rugby, the supporters and the general public, for their support and encouragement since our arrival.

“It has been brilliant to see the progress that the organisation has made in recent years, particularly with the new facilities here at Kingspan Stadium. The club has given me a lot and I'd like to be in a position to give something back in the future if possible.

"I have many great memories of my time here and I have made some brilliant friends within rugby and outside of it. It is sad that this will be my last season as an Ulster player but I will be doing everything to ensure that we make it a successful campaign.”

Less Kiss' sentiments were echoed by Shane Logan, Ulster Rugby's Chief Executive, who added: "I, personally, will miss having him around Kingspan Stadium, but I am looking forward to seeing what he will deliver for us over the course of this season, and the door is open for a return in the future.”