Pienaar pipped for top award
Dublin - Springbok and Ulster scrumhalf Ruan Pienaar
, a nominee for European Player of the Year for the 2011/12 season, was pipped by Ireland and Leinster fullback Rob Kearney for the award.
Kearney, an integral part of Leinster's European Cup-winning team, won the award on Monday.
The 26-year-old, capped 38 times by Ireland and three times by the British and Irish Lions, beat off competition from Pienaar, club-mate Jonathan Sexton, Ulster's Stephen Ferris, and English veteran Jonny Wilkinson.
Kearney started every one of Leinster's nine European games as the Irish province triumphed in the European Cup for an unprecedented third time in four years with their 42-14 victory over Ulster on the weekend.
The fullback, who succeeds team-mate Sean O'Brien as the winner of northern hemisphere rugby's ultimate individual accolade, scored six tries during the campaign and put in a series of consistently high performances.
"It really is an honour to have won this award," said Kearney. "While I am delighted with the recognition, an individual player is powerless without the support of his team-mates.
"So I owe this to the Leinster squad, to the management and to all the backroom staff at the club."