Bulls coach Jake White hailed Marco van Staden as "one of the most complete flankers in the world" after the Pretoria franchise announced Monday that the forward was joining Leicester Tigers.
"Situations like these are always met with mixed emotions," said the coach who guided South Africa to the 2007 Rugby World Cup title in France and took charge of the Bulls last year.
"I never want to lose a player of his calibre, but I'm also excited and proud of the player Marco has become."
Van Staden, a 25-year-old openside loose forward capped three times by the Springboks, helped the Bulls win the 2020 South African Super Rugby Unlocked and Currie Cup titles.
Before the coronavirus pandemic prevented spectators attending rugby in South Africa, he was a crowd favourite due to his intense work rate and physicality.
Leicester lie eighth in the English Premiership halfway through the season after a thrilling 33-32 victory over London Irish at the weekend.