Van Velze: I turned down Saints rival to sign on at Gardens

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GERRIT-JAN van Velze has revealed he rejected the advances of another English club to sign for Saints.

The South African No.8 switched to Franklin’s Gardens this summer from Super Rugby side Blue Bulls.

He follows in the footsteps of Juandre Kruger, who became a fans’ favourite at Saints after joining from the Bulls, before moving back to his homeland.

Van Velze, who captained the South African Under 19 side in 2007, being nominated for the International Rugby Board’s Under 19 player of the year award, is also highly-rated.

And that was reflected in the level of interest in the 24-year-old before he tied himself to Saints.

“There was a few more (offers) back home, which made me think I’d rather go outside of South Africa and challenge myself rather than just stay back home and move to another union,” said van Velze.

“There was one more in England but I couldn’t compare it to the Saints.”

Van Velze’s move was inspired by Bulls team-mate Kruger, who made his Test debut for South Africa in the summer series against England.

The lock spent two seasons at Saints, between 2008 and 2010, before moving home to pursue his international ambitions.

Van Velze kept a close eye on Kruger’s stay in the Premiership and he is now eager to emulate the achievements of his compatriot.

“We’re fortunate to see the Premiership games on Sunday evening on Super Sports so I followed Juandre Kruger quite a lot because we played together quite a lot then we had a season together with the Bulls. I follow quite a lot of the European rugby.

“It made it easier to move here. I had Brett (Sharman) here and Juandre to speak to back at home. He loved it here for two years, played awesome rugby, came back. I had a lot of questions, he gave me numbers to phone to help me settle in.

“He’s a Springbok rugby player at the moment and he did well against England in the June Test series so hopefully if it goes that well I’ll be very happy.”