Jacques du Plessis, pictured, and Flip van der Merwe will be joining Montpellier and Clermont at the end of the 2015 season. Photo: Duif du Toit

Johannesburg - Blue Bulls locks Jacques du Plessis and Flip van der Merwe will be joining French sides Montpellier and Clermont respectively at the end of the 2015 season, the Pretoria franchise said on Friday.

Bulls official Xander Janse van Rensburg said after some extended negotiations both players opted for the move to Europe.

“We want to thank both players, who were upfront with us from the start about offers from abroad,” Van Rensburg said in a statement.

“Flip has been a loyal servant to the Vodacom Bulls since 2009 and always made it clear that he would consider offers from abroad after the 2015 Rugby World Cup, especially as he does not have a Springbok contract. He has been a tremendous asset to the whole team and franchise over many years.”

The offer made to the 21-year old Du Plessis by the French club was astronomical, he said.

“Jacques is one of the real upcoming stars in the game and this offer received from France is testament to that. We have been negotiating since June 2014 and he has indicated that he would like to return to the Bulls after the two years. That is good news to us, as he should also be in Springbok contention by that time.”

The Bulls have back-up coming through the ranks - with the management having planned ahead for a possible exodus after the World Cup.

“We have planned for events like this and have some of the best young locks in the country on our books already.

“Guys like RG Snyman, Dennis Visser, Nicolaas Janse van Rensburg, Marvin Orie, Irne Herbst and Jason Jenkins are all amongst the best in their age groups and will be able to compete at a very high level.”

The Bulls could simply not compete with the wages offered by the Europeans, he said.

“It remains a massive battle to compete against the massive offers from abroad, especially as the exchange rate counts heavily against us, but we are confident that through good planning and scouting, we will be able to remain a very competitive franchise at all levels.”

The Bulls have also confirmed the departure of Ulrich Beyers, who had joined Bordeaux-Begles in France with immediate effect.

Sapa