One-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.
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.