FORMER skipper GJ van Velze admitted the 12 months spent on the sidelines last year left him mentally drained but the big Warriors back row won’t use his injury lay-off as an excuse this season.
The South African suffered a concussion on the opening day of last season against Saracens at Twickenham, and the return-to-play concussion protocol left him out of action for the remainder of the 2016/17 campaign.
But the 29-year-old has put a lot of pressure on himself to get back to full fitness as he looks to regain his place in the squad.
“It was extremely frustrating being on the sidelines, especially with the way things went last season regarding management, results not going our way, the pressure of relegation and new coaches coming in,” said van Velze.
“Everything off the pitch was very draining and it was the first time I’ve had longer than three months away from the game.
“You almost don’t really respect what mentally you go through as a rugby player if you’re out for that long, so getting back into it now takes a bit of time.
“It’s easy to use 12 months out of the game as an excuse (for mediocre performances) which is one thing I don’t want to do, so I’ve put a lot of pressure on myself.
“At times I’m still a yard off the pace a little bit and there’s still a lot of stuff for me to improve on my own game, but the more minutes I get under my belt the more confidence I’ll get and the quicker things will begin to settle.
“The body has had a good rest and I feel like I’m in a good spot in terms of fitness, physicality and mentally.”
Director of rugby Gary Gold has selected the former Blue Bulls player as his vice-captain for the forthcoming season, but van Velze believes every player’s role in the team is just as important.
“Even two years ago when I joined under Dean (Ryan) it was never about one person being the main captain. We’re a very young squad in terms of age but very mature when it comes to those types of decision making on the pitch,” he added.
“The club is bigger than me, it’s bigger than Donncha (O’Callaghan) and it’s bigger than Gary.
“It’s been here for much longer than us and will be here much longer than us, so being given that added responsibility is nice but it’s not about one person at all. It’s a complete team effort.”