Gloucester head coach Johan Ackermann is leaving to take charge of Japanese club NTT Docomo Red Hurricanes.
The 49-year-old South African, who has been at Kingsholm since the start of the 2017-18 season, will begin his new Japan Top League job in July.
Gloucester are ninth in the Premiership pending a restart of the season, which was halted in March by coronavirus.
“Working with such a fantastic group of players and coaches has been a great experience,” Ackermann said,
“Being head coach of Gloucester Rugby has been a tremendous privilege for me, and I have loved every minute of it.
“Gloucester Rugby fans are a truly unique group, and I will always cherish the memories I have of being at Kingsholm.”
Ackermann, whose son Ruan plays for the Cherry and Whites, led them to the European Challenge Cup final in his first season, but they lost in heartbreaking fashion when a last-minute penalty gave Cardiff Blues a 31-30 win.
Gloucester also played in the Champions Cup in two successive seasons under Ackermann.
“While I’m sorry to see Johan leave Gloucester Rugby, I fully understand his reasons for doing so,” said director of rugby David Humphreys.
“Johan approached Martin and me to say that he had received a number of coaching opportunities which, for personal reasons, he would like to consider and we agreed to his request.
“In his three years at Gloucester, Johan transformed the way we play the game and his “play to inspire” philosophy will leave a lasting impact from his time at the club.”
‘We should be able to move relatively quickly’
Gloucester chief executive Lance Bradley told BBC Points West: “It’s disappointing for us.
“I understand it’s surprising for the fans [but] Johan approached us three or four weeks ago and said that he had some personal reasons why he wanted to explore some opportunities.
“We respect him a great deal as a coach and as a man, and we understood those reasons so we gave him permission to pursue those opportunities. The one that he has chosen to take is in Japan and it’ll be amazing for him.
“But we have been planning for it for a little while so we have a shortlist of candidates who we plan to speak to and we should be able to move on relatively quickly.
“There has been speculation that he has gone for the money – it is certainly not that. We’ve assured him that he will also be welcome back. One day maybe we’ll go on tour to Japan and go and play his new team.”
Asked about the future of Ackermann’s son, Gloucester flanker Ruan, Bradley added: “I’m not expecting him to follow his father to Japan, but we’ll see what happens.
“Are we expecting all our South African players to leave now? Not at all. They’re part of the club and have fitted in very well. I’m expecting that to continue to be the case.”