Stade Francais lock Anton Van Zyl is eyeing a fond return to Oxford today, eight years after winning his second Blue.
The 32-year-old South African, who will line up against London Welsh at the Kassam Stadium in the Amlin Challenge Cup, still views Oxford’s 2004 Varsity Match victory as one of his career highlights.
And as he prepared to return to the city, Van Zyl explained how he has taken an unusual route into professional rugby.
“My two years at Oxford, and my two seasons with the Blues are some of my best rugby, and other memories,” said Van Zyl.
“Our preparation was top class, pretty close to that of a professional team, but we remained essentially amateur.
“It would be wrong if I didn’t single out the win over the other place in the 2004 Varsity as the culmination of a great few months and a special team I was lucky enough to be part of.
“I am hoping to get back to the hallowed turf that is Iffley Road over the weekend.
“So many great times, and a lot of hard yards were shared on and around that pitch.
“I keep in contact with most of my teammates and see as many of them as possible when I get over to London.” Van Zyl returned home after his Oxford studies to train as a chartered accountant
He said: “I was actually planning on retiring from rugby to focus on my career when I arrived in Johannesburg.
“But I couldn’t bare to be without the game, especially from the social and competitive perspective.
“Within 18 months I had been selected to play Currie Cup for the Lions and in October 2006 I resigned from my job, having taken up my first professional contract.”
Van Zyl played for the Lions, the Stormers and Western Province before joining Stade in summer 2011.
As for today, Van Zyl stressed Stade are focused on victory.
He said: “We definitely want to attack as much as possible, and give the ball as much air as we can.
“London Welsh are very strong and well organised, so we know that it’s not going to be easy and we’ll have to work hard to get onto the front foot.”