Exeter Chiefs lock Ruben van Heerden has left the Gallagher Premiership club with immediate effect, writes Mark Stevens.

The 25-year-old forward, who signed for the Chiefs last summer from the Sharks, is heading back to South Africa to take up a contract offer with the DHL Stormers.

Van Heerden featured in 14 appearances for the Chiefs this season, scoring five tries in total.

Commenting on the news, Chiefs’ director of rugby Rob Baxter, said: “Obviously, it’s a tough decision for everyone involved.

"Ruben came and saw me a week or so ago and said he felt he hadn’t quite fitted in how he liked too. He also got married recently and I think his wife hadn’t quite settled either.

“I think English rugby and the club wasn’t quite what he expected it to be and he was very open and honest about it and said he didn’t feel he was playing to his potential because, wrapping it up, he was just homesick.

"He had no interest to go another club, he only wanted to go home, and he asked if he could look for opportunities in South Africa, which he did.

“The truth is we don’t want an unhappy player bumping around who wants to get away. We realise he was missing home and his family and now he’s picked up this offer from the Stormers, so we’ve released him with immediate effect to take up that contract.”

Baxter says the search for a potential replacement for van Heerden has already begun, although he is more than happy to progress down the line with others within the current Chiefs squad.

“We’ll look at the market short-term to see what is out there, but we’ve also got guys coming through here at the club and we will look to utilise them,” added Baxter.

“Lewis Pearson has really stepped up this year, Joe Bailey is someone people won’t have seen a huge amount of, but he’s training very well. Also, Alfie Bell is going to be fit soon, Aidan Davis has played a lot at lock, we’ve got Jannes Kirsten back now as well and Jacques Vermeulen is not too far away either, so the back five is starting to thicken out.

“As I said, things like this happen sometimes during the course of the season. We wish Ruben all the best for the future and thank him for his efforts.”