A fresh start in a new hemisphere awaits Ivan van Zyl following his summer switch to Saracens, swapping the Bulls of Pretoria for one of England’s rugby titans ahead of their Premiership return.
Saracens confirmed their capture of the South Africa international back in February, but Van Zyl’s glowing comments about the club suggest he’s held them in a high regard for much longer.
The 26-year-old even went so far as to say representing Saracens has “always been a dream” of his, following in the footsteps of many of his countrymen who have succeeded there in the past.
Mark McCall’s side are set to begin their Premiership season away to Bristol Bears on September 17, and Van Zyl is among the most excited to get started for the Greater London outfit.
“Firstly, playing for Saracens has always been a dream of mine so to be here is really special,” he told the club’s official website.
“I was still playing at the Bulls but Sarries got in contact and I met with the coaches over Zoom. After that, I knew that I wanted to make the move and it happened really quickly which was all pretty surreal.”
He’ll be one of two South African scrum-halves hoping to carve out a place at the StoneX Stadium, with United States international Ruben de Haas also joining from Austin Gilgronis this summer.
However, it’s the more senior Van Zyl who will be expected to jostle alongside Aled Davies for the No. 9 jersey, with Tom Whiteley having recently left the squad to join Bristol.
Pretoria native Van Zyl—who has been capped six times by the Springboks—has taken a leap after spending his whole career to date with the Bulls, but his welcome at Sarries has been a warm one.
“It’s been amazing,” he added.
“Everyone has been so welcoming from all the staff right through to every single player.
“Everyone is trying to help and make myself and my wife feel comfortable on and off the pitch, they really care which has made it a great experience so far.”
McCall & Co. were promoted back to the Premiership at the first time of asking last season, beating Ealing Trailfinders over two legs in the final to escape the RFU Championship.
The club was relegated to England’s second tier after being found guilty of breaching the Premiership’s salary cap laws, but they return as instant favourites to reclaim the title.
Van Zyl will hope to follow in the footsteps of fellow South African natives like Schalk Burger, John Smit, Schalk Brits and Brad Barritt, each of whom have attained major success at Saracens.
The No. 9—who was part of the Bulls team that won the Currie Cup in January—continued: “I’m finding my feet and settling in.
“The first week was tough after being in quarantine to get up to speed but we’re working very hard.
“There is a real ability here to turn that switch as soon as we get on the pitch and we know it’s time to work so the intensity is really high.”
Sarries are back in the frame as frontrunners to win the Premiership, although there will be no European campaign as the club seeks to re-establish itself as a top-flight force.
Van Zyl will be expected to play a major role in regaining that foothold among England’s elite, living out a dream opportunity at a club he’s long hoped to represent.
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