Marcell Coetzee will leave Ulster to return to South Africa at the end of the 2020/21 season.
Having returned home during the first lockdown period in the summer, the 29-year-old expressed a strong desire to remain in South Africa amidst the ongoing uncertainty around the Covid-19 pandemic.
Coetzee did return to Belfast but remained committed to finding a route home at the conclusion of this campaign.
Ulster have agreed terms for Coetzee to be released at the end of the season and they will now begin the process for recruiting a new back row player.
Ulster CEO Jonny Petrie said they are "deeply frustrated" by the upcoming departure of the South African.
He added that it was against their wishes and Ulster had no option
Deeply frustrated by this whole situation - come about very much against our wishes & we've had no option but to end up where we are. Nothing to do with IRFU or finances - entirely player (& Bulls) driven. Very disappointing, but we move on - doesn’t alter our course one bit. https://t.co/8WTB7iQpFd— Jonny Petrie (@JP_Petrie) December 26, 2020
Head coach Dan McFarland said: "Marcell has been a great performer for us on and off the field and I’m sure he will continue to bring his high-performance standards through until June.
"We have a talented squad that is growing in experience. We are looking to supplement and support that talent, particularly in the forwards, in line with our ambition to consistently compete for championships."
Coetzee said: "It all started during lockdown when I was back home for four months. My wife and I did a lot of thinking together about life and we also reflected on where I am in my career.
"We decided to come back to Belfast with an open mind, but ultimately we miss home, the South African culture and way of life – and after five seasons the longing for home has just caught up with us.
"I must say Ulster have been absolutely superb to me, on and off the field during my career, and I feel I have grown as a person and as a player for the experiences the club has given me. Ulster will always have a special place in the hearts of my wife and I."
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