Springbok scrumhalf Ruan Pienaar will leave Irish club Ulster at the end of the 2016-17 season due to the IRFU's succession policy.
Ulster confirmed on Wednesday that despite operations director Bryn Cunningham and director of rugby Les Kiss working with the IRFU over the past six months, a contract extension was ultimately not possible.
Pienaar has scored 777 points in 118 competitive games for Ulster to date and was a starring member of the squad that reached the 2012 European Champions Cup final.
'I am not moving on for a new adventure or for financial reasons,' Pienaar said. 'I wanted to stay and I know that Ulster rugby did everything it could to keep me in Belfast.'
Kiss said he was disappointed with the outcome.
'Ruan has been an outstanding servant to Ulster rugby over the past six years and he will be a huge loss for us next season. For me, he is a fantastic player, but he is an even better person, who is much loved by his teammates, the staff and management, and the wider rugby community here in Ulster.
'His influence within the squad, both on and off the field, is truly remarkable; whether that is through match-winning contributions, or mentoring the promising players coming through our pathway. Indeed, he has played a big part in helping us to develop a large group of talented young backline players who have gone on to represent Ireland in recent years.'
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