Jesse Kriel will return to Japanese rugby with the Canon Eagles, having previously played for NTT Docomo Red Hurricanes. Photo: Samuel Shivambu/BackpagePix

The Blue Bulls say they “cannot fault the contributions” of Jesse Kriel and Lood de Jager, who will join overseas clubs at the end of the Super Rugby season.

Outside centre Kriel will link up with his former Springbok coach, Allister Coetzee, at the Canon Eagles in Japan, while De Jager will feel right at home among a number of South Africans at Sale Sharks in Manchester.

Stormers utility back SP Marais has also been recruited by Canon Eagles.

“It is very exciting feeling that we can have experienced Springboks like Kriel in the Canon Eagles. It is a player with a very high level of contribution to the team inside and outside the field. Yes, I’m looking forward (to working with him),” Coetzee said in a statement on the club website on Wednesday.

“Marais is a utility outside back and an excellent left-footed kicker, who is also extremely skilful and will give Eagles a new value.”

Both De Jager and Kriel have long been rumoured to be on their way out of South African rugby after the World Cup, and they are part of an ever growing group of top local players being snapped up by cash-rich overseas clubs.

The likes of Coenie Oosthuizen and the Du Preez brothers Jean-Luc, Dan and Robert have made the move to Sale, who have Springbok scrumhalf Faf de Klerk on their books.

It has been reported that they also tried to lure Stormers No 1 Steven Kitshoff, although he is understood to have decided to stay in Cape Town.

“There can be no doubt that both were very popular amongst our fans, not only because of their personalities, but also because of their passion for the Bulls and their styles of play,” Bulls chief executive Alfons Meyer said about De Jager and Kriel on Wednesday.

“Neither ever stopped trying to give 110%, and both became Springboks that have graced the green and gold with much aplomb.

“We are sad to see them leave, but we cannot fault their contributions and commitments while they were here. We wish them well in their careers.”

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