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Franco van der MerweUlsterJohann MullerOne-time Springbok Franco van der Merwe has already played his last game for the Lions.

Golden Lions Rugby Union CEO Manie Booysen confirmed to this website that they have released the veteran lock, who will join up with Irish province Ulster later this year.

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The 31-year-old is a direct replacement for another Bok, Johann Muller, who announced his retirement from the game recently.

Booysen said Van der Merwe, who is sidelined for the rest of the season with an ankle injury he suffered against the Reds last month, told his Lions teammates at lunchtime on Thursday that he is leaving at the completion of the Super Rugby competition.

“It has been coming since the end of last year, that he has been on their [Ulster's] wishlist,” Booysen told rugby365.

The Lions boss it was not an easy decision.

“We considered a scenario where he would go to go away after the Super Rugby season and then return next year,” the CEO said, adding: “However, after consideration, we decided that after years of loyal service to let him go.

“It [the Ulster offer] is an opportunity that does not come along every day. We hope he will return to our structures one day.”

Van der Merwe’s loyalty is epitomised in the fact that, after undergoing ankle surgery, he recently returned – on his crutches – to help out the Lions Under-19 team with their line-out sessions.

Van der Merwe, who played 80-odd Super Rugby matches for the Lions and 16 while on loan to the Sharks last year, earned his one and only Test cap against the All Blacks at Ellis Park last year.

He will replace Muller, a 24-Test veteran with 82 matches for the Sharks and 70-odd for Ulster.

2 Responses to Lions – Franco van der Merwe signs for Ulster

  • 1

    This is a pity for the Lions. He will have big shoes to fill at Ulster as Johann Muller has been a stalwart for Ulster and is well liked by the folk there. There was speculation by Ulster fans that Franco was on his way to them and also about Stuart Hogg, hope they were right about vd Merwe and not right about Hogg…

  • 2

    Lions official communique received just after 17h00 SA time yesterday:

    “MEDIA RELEASE:

    GOLDEN LIONS RUGBY UNION TO BID FAREWELL TO FRANCO VAN DER MERWE

    Following a seven-year relationship, the Golden Lions Rugby Union will release lock Franco van der Merwe at the request of the player.

    The Springbok has opted to take up a new challenge abroad and will join Ulster at the conclusion of the 2014 Vodacom Super Rugby competition.

    Van der Merwe has celebrated a lengthy and prosperous career at the GLRU, winning the Absa Currie Cup tournament with the Golden Lions side in 2011, assisting the team in gaining readmission to the Vodacom Super Rugby tournament in 2013 and also earning Springbok selection in 2013.

    Additionally, Van der Merwe celebrated 100 caps for the Golden Lions and was named the GLRU Player of the Year in 2013. He has stamped his authority as one of the most respected senior players in the squad.

    While Van der Merwe will not travel with the Lions on their Vodacom Super Rugby tour to Australasia, as a result of injury, the 31-year-old will look to end his Lions tenure off on a high as he aims to make a comeback in July.

    In the meantime, Van der Merwe will spend time assisting the Golden Lions U19 forwards as he has done for several weeks.

    Golden Lions Rugby Union Chief Executive Officer Manie Booysen expressed his gratitude for Van der Merwe’s years of service and wished him all the best for his future endeavours.

    “We would like to thank Franco for all his contributions to Lions rugby over the years. We are grateful to have had a player of his calibre within our ranks,” shared Booysen.

    “The management and staff of the GLRU would like to wish Franco and his wife all the best for their move abroad and their future prospects. We hope to see more of Franco in future and would love to have him involved in our structures, once more, in the years to come.””


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