CAPTAIN GJ Van Velze believes Worcester Warriors can follow in the footsteps of his former club Northampton Saints who lifted the Aviva Premiership trophy in May.
The 26-year-old said Saints’ victory over Saracens in the play-off final at Twickenham ended a seven-year journey, which began when they were relegated in 2007.
And Van Velze, who left Franklin’s Gardens to join Warriors this summer, said he was convinced his new side can one-day repeat that feat, especially with former Saints performance director Nick Johnston in the backroom staff at Sixways.
“There have been so many clubs who have come back and been stronger in the Premiership, so hopefully we can achieve that here,” he said.
“For instance, there were quite a few guys who lifted the Premiership trophy this year who were part of the relegated team, so it is nice to know that someone has done it already and we are lucky enough to have Nick Johnston with us who has been part of the whole scheme at Northampton.”
Having helped Saints to league and Amlin Challenge Cup success, the South African back row could have stayed in the East Midlands. But instead, he chose to head west in a bid to help Worcester kick-start their journey.
“I loved my two seasons at Northampton. In my first year we lost in the final to Leicester, but in my second year we won the Amlin, lost in the LV= Cup final and then won the Premiership final, so it was a special time for me,” he said.
“But I have always wanted the opportunity to go to a place where I can start from the bottom and that’s where Worcester in the Championship.”
Warriors are strong favourites to clinch promotion and Van Velze, who has replaced Jonathan Thomas as club captain, said he understands the pressure on his shoulders to lead Worcester to the Greene King IPA Championship title this season.
“The captaincy was something I wanted,” he added. “But then again we have a leadership group of six senior players, which runs this club, so by naming a captain does not make much difference.
“Don’t get me wrong, it is still a massive honour, but I can fall back on their advice and leadership skills.
“There could be pressure as captain, but we are in a position to influence young players and if we do that we will be rewarded with a place back in the Premiership.”