Heyneke Meyer's promising reign as Leicester head coach came to a sad but predictable end today as he quit with the Guinness Premiership club's blessing.

The South African has been in his homeland since the end of last month due to serious illnesses suffered by both his wife's parents, and his permanent departure had been widely expected for the last fortnight.

Tigers' hierarchy had been inclined to offer him as much time as possible to find a solution to his personal issues in an attempt to retain the services of one of the sport's most successful and innovative operators.

But Meyer has confirmed that his commitment could no longer lie at Welford Road.

‘This has been a very difficult decision for me to make, in difficult circumstances, but I hope everyone can understand my reasons,’ he said.

‘Leicester Tigers is a very special rugby club and I accepted the job there because I felt it was equipped to go on to greater success.

‘I enjoyed my time living and working in England. The board, the staff, (captain) Martin Corry and the players, and the supporters have been fantastic towards me and my family during my time at Leicester and also during the time I have spent back in South Africa.

‘I would like to thank them all for their support and wish everyone at Welford Road all the very best. I am sure the club will enjoy great success in the future.’

Forwards coach Richard Cockerill will continue to take charge of the Tigers team, with support from Matt O'Connor and Paul Burke, the respective backs and kicking coaches.

Meyer, 41, is the only man to have led teams to the Vodacom Cup, Currie Cup and Super 14 titles, and when his Blue Bulls won the latter in 2007 they became the first South African team to do so.

Meyer's last match in charge was a thrilling 26-26 Premiership draw with Harlequins at Twickenham on 27 December, and he leaves Tigers in contention for a place in the league play-offs and with a home Heineken Cup quarter-final against Bath to come in April.