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Bath captain's ingenuity earns him prestigious business award

BATH, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 12: GJ van Velze of Bath Rugby looks on during a training session at Farleigh House on September 12, 2023 in Bath, England. (Photo by Patrick Khachfe/Getty Images)

Bath Rugby second row Gj Van Velze was today announced as the worthy recipient of this season’s first RPA Vodafone Business Gain Line Award.


Created to support current and former players in their off-field business ventures, the Rugby Players Association (RPA) have recognised Van Velze’s efforts in setting up not one but two businesses when he was out of the game with long term injury.

In 2020, the South African born forward had to undergo shoulder surgery after a bad dislocation while playing for Worcester Warriors. That followed surgery for an arm fracture the year before.

The time out from rugby led to him creating his business, VanVelze and Smith, which designs and sells luxury boots and leather goods. For every pair of Chelsea boots sold, they provide a child in South Africa with a new pair of rugby boots.

To help fund this business and scheme, the now 35-year-old also created an online business specialising in abrasive and paint consumables, Big Dog Paints.

By creating the two companies, he has not only provided extra income for his family but also provided employment opportunities for other individuals, and of course, aims to also make a difference in South Africa.


“Thank you for this award. It is the outcome of extensive effort and numerous mistakes made over the past six years,” said van Velze.

“These awards are significant as they offer rugby players a sense of stability in life and motivate them to consider their lives after rugby. My carcass is not getting any younger and the support from the rugby community has been amazing.”

Awards and business aside, the big second-row is still very much a full time rugby player, and will feature against Sale Sharks on Friday night.

Bath coach Johann van Graan today named his matchday-23 for the Round 7 Gallagher Premiership clash, with van Velze starting in the second row and skippering the side.

Bath Rugby:

15 Tom de Glanville, 14 Ruaridh McConnochie, 13 Max Ojomoh, 12 Will Butt, 11 Matt Gallagher, 10 Finn Russell, 9 Louis Schreuder, 8 Jaco Coetzee, 7 Chris Cloete, 6 Ewan Richards, 5 GJ van Velze (c), 4 Josh McNally,  3 Johannes Jonker, 2 Niall Annett, 1 Thomas du Toit



16 Tom Dunn, 17 Juan Schoeman (50), 18 Archie Griffin, 19 Fergus Lee-Warner, 20 Nahum Merigan, 21 Ben Spencer, 22 Orlando Bailey, 23 Cameron Redpath

Sale Sharks:

15. Joe Carpenter, 14. Tom Roebuck, 13. Rob du Preez, 12. Sam Bedlow, 11. Arron Reed, 10. George Ford, 9. Gus Warr, 8. Dan du Preez, 7. Ben Curry (c), 6. Ernst van Rhyn, 5. Jonny Hill, 4. Cobus Wiese, 3. Nick Schonert, 2. Luke Cowan-Dickie, 1. Bevan Rodd.


16. Agustin Creevy, 17. Si McIntyre, 18. James Harper, 19. Josh Beaumont, 20. Sam Dugdale, 21. Nye Thomas, 22. Sam James, 23. Tom O’Flaherty.



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