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Ulster rugby players to speak about their faith

By Sarah Mac Donald - 08 January, 2016

Ruan Pienaar, Wiehahn Herbst and Paul Marshall will be interviewed by the BBC’s Mark Simpson St Anne’s Cathedral in Belfast on 25 January.

Ulster rugby faithThree high profile members of the Ulster rugby squad are set to talk about their faith later this month at a service in St Anne’s Cathedral in Belfast.

Ruan Pienaar, Wiehahn Herbst and Paul Marshall will be interviewed by the BBC’s Mark Simpson on Monday, 25 January at 8pm.

There will also be a short time of worship, and personal prayer for those who would like to receive it.

Shane Logan, Chief Executive of Ulster Rugby, will also talk about his faith at the event which is being sponsored by Christian Vision for Men and Divine Healing Ministries.

Ruan Pienaar holds 88 caps for South Africa and played for the South African team that won the World Cup in 2007. He joined Ulster in 2010.

A devout Christian, he has said in the past, “I have always believed, with my Christianity, that there’s so much more to life than rugby. Being here gives me an enormous sense of purpose. I am not just here for rugby. I’m here to touch lives.”

Born in 1984 in the South African town of Bloemfontein, Ruan Pienaar’s father was the Springbok fullback Gysie Pienaar. The family was a devout Christian one.

He told the Belfast Newsletter, “I grew up in a Christian home and always went to church on Sunday.”

Since moving to Northern Ireland he has been a regular worshipper at the Christian Fellowship Church (CFC) in east Belfast.

Pienaar believes there is a heaven and a hell and after we die there’s eternal life.

He tries to make time for Bible study every day.

‘‘I think it’s important to stay disciplined and obedient in what you have decided to do, so that is a routine I’m trying to follow – just to have the same time every day to have Bible study.’’

And is there a passage in the Bible which particularly resonates for him?

“I don’t walk with a Bible underneath my arms and think I’m the perfect person. I make mistakes every single day and I’m not afraid to admit that. But I think it’s just about trying to set an example, trying to always be positive – that’s the way I try to live my life.”

Being a rugby star might seem as at odds with spirituality, but not for Pienaar.

‘‘I don’t really think so, however you do get into occasions on the pitch where you get tempted to lose it a bit. We try and behave as well as possible, but it’s not always easy, but I definitely think there’s a place for Christianity in the sport that we play. ‘’

Belfast-born scrum-half Paul Marshall made his debut for Ulster in 2006.

Raised in a Christian home, he made a commitment to Christ at the age of 10, but didn’t really understand the commitment he had made.

It wasn’t until his final year of secondary school that he really began to live for Christ.

Hearing about the death of a former team mate of the same age during a game, and hearing a non-Christian team mate say that Marshall acted differently around his rugby friends to his church friends, were turning points in his life.

Citing Colossians 3:23 as his favourite verse, [‘Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters’] he is clear about what God wants him to do.

“God wants me to impact other rugby players and other people for him,” Marshall has said.

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