Cape Town - Francois Uys, who captained the Cheetahs in 2015, has been released to play club rugby in Japan for a few months.
Uys, 29, will join the Toyota Verblitz club but will return to Bloemfontein in time for the 2016 Super Rugby competition.
The Cheetahs have a friendly relationship with Verblitz, with both teams sharing the same sponsorship.
Os du Randt earlier this year left the Cheetahs to become Verblitz’s scrum coach.
Cheetahs coach Franco Smith told Netwerk24 that there was a lock shortage at Verblitz so they opted to release Uys.
Another Cheetahs forward, Willie Britz, plays for the NTT Shining Arcs in Japan and will also return in time for Super Rugby.
Smith is yet to name his captain for 2016, with Uys, Britz, Lood de Jager, Boom Prinsloo, Torsten van Jaarsveld and Francois Venter all being considered as candidates.
The Cheetahs start their 2016 Super Rugby campaign at home against the new Los Jaguares team from Argentina on Friday, February 26.
They will play warm-up matches against the Bulls (Harare, February 6) and Kings (Port Elizabeth (February 12).