Springbok Etzebeth to exit Toulon for 'personal reasons'

The 30-year-old lock arrived at the French club in 2019, but this season played just once, Saturday's 21-18 win over Top 14 leaders Bordeaux Begles, which moved Toulon off the bottom of the table.

Springbok's lock Eben Etzebeth stands before the start of the Rugby Championship match between South Africa and New Zealand at the Loftus Versfeld stadium in Pretoria, South Africa, on October 6, 2018. Picture:  AFP.

TOULON - World Cup winner Eben Etzebeth confirmed on Sunday he will leave Top 14 rugby club Toulon to return to South Africa at the end of the season.

The 30-year-old lock arrived at the French club in 2019, but this season played just once, Saturday's 21-18 win over Top 14 leaders Bordeaux Begles, which moved Toulon off the bottom of the table.

"I'm sad to have to leave Toulon and my teammates at the end of the season, but personal reasons force me to do so," said Etzebeth, who has earned just short of 100 caps for the Springboks.

"Toulon and its supporters welcomed me with fervour, kindness and sympathy. I have the desire to give my all with this team until the end of the season, to allow Toulon to perform, to move up the rankings and to be ambitious in the Challenge Cup."

Etzebeth started the season with South Africa in the southern hemisphere Rugby Championship and then played in the autumn internationals in November.

In the last match of the tour, a one-point loss to England at Twickenham, Etzebeth suffered his third concussion of the year.

Just as he ended five months away from Toulon, Etzebeth was ruled out for three months.

"Eben Etzebeth has expressed the wish to terminate the contract binding him to the Toulon rugby club in advance in order to return, for personal reasons, to South Africa," the club said in a statement.

"Aware of the difficulties encountered by this player, Toulon has taken note of this request and accepted it."

Three-time European champions Toulon's Covid problems mean they have played fewer games than any other club in the Top 14.