Ulster sign South Africa lock Franco Van der Merwe on two-year deal
Ulster sign South Africa second row Franco Van der Merwe on a two-year deal from Super Rugby's Lions.
Last Updated: 24/04/14 10:56pm
The 31-year-old made his only appearance for the Springboks, off the bench against the All Blacks, in last year's Rugby Championship and will join compatriots, Ulster captain Johann Muller and fly-half Ruan Pienaar, at Ravenhill.
Full international honours had followed a successful loan season with South African rivals the Sharks and Van der Merwe also represented his country at Under-21 level.
He began his senior career with a three-year spell at the Leopards before spending seven seasons at the Golden Lions, winning the Currie Cup in 2011.
Lions' player of the year in 2013, his game time has been restricted this season following an ankle injury, but he will move to Belfast when his Super Rugby commitments conclude.
Van der Merwe said: "I am very much looking forward to joining Ulster Rugby. It is a very strong province and the set up is so professional.
"I spoke with Johann (Muller) and Ruan (Pienaar) about Ulster Rugby and they had only had good things to say. That made the decision really easy for me."
Ulster's director of rugby David Humphreys said: "I am delighted that Franco has agreed to join Ulster Rugby. His Super XV experience, his lineout ability and his leadership qualities were what set him apart from the others that we spoke to over the past few months.
"His recent international cap for South Africa has only made him more ambitious to achieve further success in his rugby career.
"In the past few seasons we have recruited top-class international players to compliment our panel of highly talented homegrown players.
"Franco will play an important role for Ulster both on and off the pitch in developing this talent even further and I have no doubt that he will be a big success at Ravenhill."