Van der Merwe to leave Lions

The Springbok lock has agreed a move to Ulster Rugby Club.

Veteran Lions lock Franco van der Merwe. Picture: Facebook.

JOHANNESBURG - Lions forward Franco van der Merwe will join Irish side Ulster following the conclusion of this season's Super Rugby campaign.

The Springbok lock will bring an end to his seven-year association with the Gauteng union by taking up the challenge of playing in Ireland, where he will join up with fellow South Africans Johann Muller, Ruan Pienaar, Robbie Diack and Robert Herring in the Ulster squad.

Highlights of van der Merwe's time at the Lions include winning the Currie Cup in 2011, assisting the team in gaining readmission to Super Rugby in 2013 and earning Springbok selection.

Van der Merwe leaves the Johannesburg-based side at the peak of his powers, having recently celebrated 100 caps for the Lions.

He was named the union's Player of the Year in 2013.

Currently side-lined with an ankle injury, the 31-year-old will look to end his Lions tenure on a high as he aims to make a comeback in July for the final rounds of Super Rugby.

Golden Lions Chief Executive Officer Manie Booysen expressed his gratitude for van der Merwe's years of service and wished him all the best.

"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.

"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."