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Bath duo announce their retirements at the end of season

By Josh Raisey
Chris Cloete of Bath Rugby looks dejected after the final whistle after the Investec Champions Cup match between Stade Toulousain and Bath Rugby at Stade Ernest Wallon on January 21, 2024 in Toulouse, France. (Photo by Patrick Khachfe/Getty Images)

Bath forwards GJ van Velze and Chris Cloete have announced their retirements from rugby at the end of the season.

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The South African duo have spent the last two years at the Rec, having arrived with head of rugby Johann van Graan in 2022.

Both had previously worked under van Graan, with van Velze serving under him at the Bulls and Cloete being coached by him at Munster.

The versatile forward van Velze has over 150 Gallagher Premiership appearances, with spells and Northampton Saints and Worcester Warriors prior to joining Bath.

Former South Africa A back row Cloete racked up 26 appearances for the West Country outfit after arriving from Thomond Park.

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“I am very proud to have been part of Chris and Gerrit-Jan’s rugby journeys across the rugby world,” van Graan said after their exits were announced.

“A massive congratulations to both players for the careers that they have had, the memories we have shared, the influence they had on others, and most importantly for the great men that they are.

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“Gerrit-Jan is a player that I have coached at Affies, the Bulls and now Bath. I will remember him as one of the best Leaders that I have coached and as a player who had a deep understanding of the game of rugby. I wish GJ and his family the very best for the next step in their journey.

“GJ is one of the very best men that I had the privilege of coaching. Gerrit-Jan, thank you for the belief you had in our vision for Bath, your influence will be remembered in the years to come!

“Chris had an amazing rugby journey that took him all over the world. I am grateful to have spent many years coaching Chris at Munster and Bath.

“I will remember Chris as one of the toughest and fiercest competitors that I have come across, whether it be on the training field or in the game.

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“He was one of those players that everyone enjoyed having around, his laugh is infectious. Chris, thank you for the memories you leave us with and enjoy the trip down the west coast of Africa to home.”

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