By his own admission, GJ Van Velze has a love-hate relationship with Twickenham but the Worcester Warriors captain can’t wait to take part in this year’s London Double Header.
The South African back-rower grew up watching his country play England on the hallowed turf, dreaming of one day following in their footsteps.
But when the 28-year-old did finally make his Twickenham bow in 2013 for former club Northampton Saints, it ended in disappointment when they lost the Aviva Premiership Rugby Final against Leicester Tigers.
Saints did return 12 months later to claim the title though – although Van Velze didn’t feature in the matchday squad – and after moving to Sixways, he led the club into the London Double Header last year, where they were beaten 48-18 by Saracens.
Warriors will be back at the home of English rugby when they kick off their Aviva Premiership Rugby campaign on September 3 by taking on Sarries as part of the London Double Header.
Van Velze said: “We’re very lucky to be involved at Twickenham again as it is a great occasion, and from the club’s point of view it’s huge to get Worcester fans supporting the side at this venue.
“It’s a lovely little carrot. We’ve known about it throughout pre-season of course, and the boys are excited about the quality opposition in Sarries.
“As a young kid I used to watch whenever South Africa were involved at Twickenham and it was always seen as the home of rugby.
“So to get the chance to play there during my time at Northampton Saints was huge; we lost the Aviva Premiership Final to Leicester Tigers, and then eventually won it against Sarries.
“So it’s a bit of a love-hate relationship, but it is a great place to play and the atmosphere is unbelievable.”
Worcester’s first campaign back in the top flight ended with a tenth-place finish, as the club enjoyed a club-record four consecutive Aviva Premiership Rugby wins.
Dean Ryan has since departed and head coach Carl Hogg will now be looking after first-team affairs, with high performance director Nick Johnston overseeing the backroom staff.
And Van Velze is excited to see how the club progresses in their second season back in the top flight.
The back row added: “We were quite a young squad [last season] and there were times last year when we had a very young average age on the field.
“They need to learn from the experiences of getting turned over in the final few minutes of games, whether it is decision-making that has let us down, fitness, mental things, playing away from home or whatever else. We need to learn from our mistakes.
“Hopefully those youngsters can take another step now and we can watch them kick on, and this season we can make better decisions.
“The thing that gives me a lot of confidence is the consistency of our performances last year – it wasn’t one week on, one week off.
“We were there or thereabouts week in, week out. If you look at the season as a whole we got blown away by Sarries and Wasps only, so in terms of the bigger picture there were only a few games we weren’t there mentally and the rest of the time we were consistently in the right place.
“To have a young squad that is already consistently producing performances is very exciting, even if we weren’t always getting the results.”
Start the Aviva Premiership Rugby Season in style with two games from £25 at Twickenham. Harlequins v Bristol Rugby and Saracens v Worcester Warriors in the London Double Header, 3 September. Tickets available from ticketmaster.co.uk