Ulster have confirmed that powerful front-rower Schalk van der Merwe will join the province ahead of next season on a two-year contract.
The 26-year-old will make the move following the conclusion of the 2017 Super Rugby season, in which he is representing the Southern Kings.
The loosehead prop had a recent stint in France with Montpellier and prior to that he played provincial rugby in his homeland. He earned 25 Super Rugby caps for the Lions in 2014 and 2015 as they produced a number of dominant scrum displays against much-vaunted opposition.
Commenting on the arrival of Van der Merwe, director of rugby Les Kiss said: “Schalk is a talented player who I’ve been really impressed by – he was the cornerstone of the Lions scrum that dominated for a couple of Super Rugby seasons.
“In addition to his excellent scrummaging, he will give us some much-needed physicality in the loose, and this will be a major plus for us in the seasons ahead. He has a hard edge and he’s determined to work hard to nail down a starting place here at Ulster.
“His arrival will give us much improved depth at loosehead, with Kyle McCall, Andy Warwick and Callum Black also on the books. As we’ve seen this season, injuries, particularly in the front row, mean that at times we’re required to delve deep into our pool of resources.
“With the impending arrivals of Arno Botha and Schalk, the return to fitness of Marcell Coetzee, and the ongoing development of Academy players like Ross Kane, Aaron Hall, Tommy O’Hagan and Marcus Rea, we will have a much stronger roster of forwards to select from next season.”