Donal Lenihan has said Ulster's "moaning and groaning" over Ruan Pienaar's impending exit damaged their performances, and believes the IRFU made the right call over talented South African.

Pienaar made a tearful exit at Kingspan Stadium on Saturday, singing off after the 17-13 Pro12 defeat of Leinster.

The fan favourite's departure is down to the IRFU's succession policy, 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.

Lenihan, speaking to RTÉ 2fm's Game On, said that while the situation was tough on Pienaar, the IRFU are right to think of the greater good.

"They’ve had very poor season really," Lenihan said of Les Kiss's side. "You look at the quality they had in the back line but they were totally inconsistent throughput the season. In all the key matches this season they were found wanting.

"It’s an unfortunate one because obviously he’s been an outstanding player for them over seven or eight seasons. He very much bought into the culture in Ulster, he was a huge crowd favourite.

"But I can understand where the IRFU are coming from on this particular one.

"Ulster haven’t produced a scrum-half of top quality for years and they have to address that.

"Paul Marshall has been in that squad for a long time but he’s over 30 now, John Cooney is going over from Connacht, so there will be opportunities there for Irish players, but filling the boost of Pienaar is going to be a massive task.

"They’ve been moaning and groaning about this thing for six months and psychologically that gives you an excuse. They should just get on with it, it’s happening. The season is over now so they have no choice."