GERRIT-JAN VAN VELZE is aiming to become the latest in a long line of Saints players to achieve international recognition.
The 24-year-old moved to Northampton from Super Rugby side Blue Bulls this summer, looking to ‘prove a point’ in the Aviva Premiership.
He knows if he can make a big impression, just as former Bulls team-mate Juandre Kruger did at Saints, he could earn a call-up to the South Africa squad.
Jim Mallinder has a habit of steering players into international set-ups, with the likes of Ben Foden, Chris Ashton and Lee Dickson flourishing under his tuition.
And Van Velze is now looking to learn from those players during pre-season training and beyond as he bids to earn a place in the future Springboks sides.
“With Nick (Johnston) training the guys and Jim, the guys are at such a high level,” said the former South Africa schools captain.
“They produce so many international rugby players and it’s easier just to follow them. You’ve got blokes you can look up to and work as hard as they do.
“It’s a new challenge for me so I’ve got to prove a point. No one knows me quite as well in European rugby so for me it’s a big challenge going forward.”
Van Velze says it took him a ‘medium’ amount of time to mull over the offer from Saints and decide to move to England.
But he believes the switch can only be good for him as he feels the Premiership will be a level up on Super Rugby and the Currie Cup, which he was previously playing in.
“I wouldn’t say it was quite long, it was a medium decision to make,” said van Velze.
“I’ve got a missus back home who is in her final year in medicine so it’s difficult for her that she has to finish her studies and I’m coming over on my own.
“That made it a bit more difficult but in terms of moving from the Bulls to Saints, it’s two top clubs, very professional so that made it a bit easier.
“It’s not as though you’re going a level down, you’re actually going a level up so that made the decision easier.”