Bulls forward off to England
Gerrit-Jan van Velze (Gallo Images)
Johannesburg - Bulls utility forward Gerrit-Jan van Velze will join English Premiership club Northampton Saints on July 1, the union announced on Tuesday.
"After successful negotiations with the English Premiership club, the 24-year-old player has been released by the Blue Bulls Company (Pty) Ltd to join the Saints in three months time," the Bulls said in a statement.
Van Velze represented the Bulls in Super Rugby, but left a real mark as captain of the Blue Bulls' Vodacom Cup team, which he captained to two titles.
He also captained the South African Under-21 side in 2007, earning a nomination as the International Rugby Board's U-21 Player of the Year.
Commenting on his decision, Van Velze said it was the right opportunity at the right time in his career.
"I had some wonderful times at the Bulls and will always be thankful for that," Van Velze said.
"I see this as another chapter and challenge in my career where I can continue to grow as a player and develop my skills.
"Northampton is one of the great clubs in Europe and I am keen to contribute to their objectives."
Bulls head coach Frans Ludeke said it was sad to see Van Velze leave.
"We understand and respect his reasons for moving on and wish him well," said Ludeke.
"He has been part of our structures for a long time and is well respected for his leadership and dedication to hard work.
"We will never stand in the way of our players exploring opportunities elsewhere and I can honestly say that Gerrit-Jan will leave here as a friend. We might see him back in future."
Van Velze has until now played 59 times for the Blues Bulls in Vodacom Cup and Currie Cup and had one start for the Bulls in Super Rugby.