The player who has played more than 50 games for the Cheetahs and also won the Currie Cup with the Free State, was not named in their squad for the upcoming domestic competition.
Lee will be playing for Brive, who were promoted to the French Top14 after they played in the Pro D2 league last season.
Lee confirmed his departure to OFM Sport.
“I am very excited to be going to France, but I am also very sad about leaving. The Free State will always be my family and the place that I know the best.
“So it is very emotional for me to be saying goodbye.”
Franco Smith, who will be stepping down as the Cheetahs head coach after the Currie Cup, conceded that the loss of Nico Lee a mere week before their being with the domestic competition is a big blow.
“We are very disappointed to lose anybody at this stage, and especially a guy like Nico Lee.
“He has had a big influence in the success of Cheetahs rugby over the last four or five years. He is going to be sorely missed, but it also gives an opportunity to other players.
“That is was Cheetah rugby is about.
“I am really proud of Nico. He has really worked and for all the accolades and he deserved a big contract. Although we tried to keep him in the Free State just cannot compete with the offer that was tabled by Brive.
“It is unfortunate, and we are sad to lose him, but we wish him well and thank him for everything he has done for Cheetahs rugby.”
Lee missed the latter part of the 2018/19 Guinness Pro14, Lee, after receiving a heavy suspension for an unsavory incident against Connacht in Galway.
@MorganPiek OFM Sport