Springbok lock Pieter-Steph du Toit has confirmed he will be leaving the Sharks at the end of October.
Having made his debut for the Sharks in 2012, Du Toit has become an influential player for the franchise, with strong performances earning him Springbok honours in 2013.
However, Du Toit has suffered two serious knee injuries, and missed the large part of the last two Vodacom Super Rugby seasons.
Although it hasn't been confirmed as yet, Du Toit has been strongly linked with a move to the Stormers, with director of rugby Gert Smal recently confirming they were in talks with the talented 22-year-old.
Commenting on Du Toit's departure, Sharks CEO John Smit said: 'We are terribly disappointed to lose a player of the calibre of Pieter-Steph du Toit. Despite our best efforts to keep him in the province, he has chosen to move on.
'He was scouted and signed by the franchise while still in school and ever since his arrival in Durban, he has emerged as a standout performer. Sadly, he suffered two serious injuries, which saw his 2014 and 2015 seasons being curtailed prematurely.
'Our medical team has invested immense time and effort into Pieter-Steph’s rehabilitation and recovery process and we are saddened to lose him, but I guess we cannot hold the player back if he has made up his mind.'
Du Toit thanked the Sharks for the unconditional support the franchise afforded him during times of fitness and especially injury.
'This was the hardest decision of my life. The Sharks have always been good to me and if it was not for what the province has done for me I would never have been able to achieve from rugby what I have to date. For this, I will be forever grateful.
'My decision is one that has a specific focus now already for my life after rugby and also my family. Thank you to every Sharks employee and fan for the privilege I have had to be part of your family. All of you will always remain dear to me.'
Photo: Steve Haag/Gallo Images