Currie Cup

Claassens relishes stint at Sharks

2015-07-03 10:36
Michael Claassens (Gallo Images)

Durban - Former Cheetahs, Bath and Toulon scrumhalf Michael Claassens is relishing his new home at the Sharks.

Durban is a place that holds strong ties to his childhood and brings back happy memories for the former Springbok.

“Durban is a great place, we used to come here on family holidays so I have fond memories of Durban and although it was a holiday place, obviously now it’s a place where I come to work,” he told Sharks website editor Michael Marnewick.

“The Sharks have been amazing, they welcomed me right from the start and everyone has been great. Training has been good but hard and I’ve enjoyed it very much.”

Having previously played his rugby in France and England, this is an unusual winter for him, but certainly one he’s loving.

“It’s ‘lekker’, amazing, and easier to train in this kind of weather. When it’s wet and cold, it’s hard to get yourself up for training, but we have no excuse here.”

After playing in the colder and wetter climate of the UK and France (to a lesser degree), he admits that he is looking forward to a scrumhalf role where he can attack, with a license to play more.

“The game differs; overseas with the conditions, the game is a bit slower, whereas here it is quicker, the 9 has to be very fit to get to the breakdowns and that’s what the coaches here want from their scrumhalf, to get to the ball and move it away. Obviously, if there is a chance, you’ll have a go but the first job of a 9 is to move the ball away from the breakdown as quick as possible.”

With the Sharks losing so many players to the Springboks, it means he’s part of a young , but fairly experienced backline.

“That’s how you get experience, guys leave, guys get injured and a young player gets the chance,” he explains. “Someone like Stefan Ungerer played well in Super Rugby and that’s how you get an opportunity and establish yourself. There is a lot of talent here, some youngsters, some older guys and we have a good squad.”

Earlier in his career, Claassens captained Bath for one season and played alongside another Sharks player, Butch James, and with a leadership role to add to what he brings, his involvement at the Sharks looks to be a valued one.

“The captaincy was alright; the role was different for me, my first language is Afrikaans and I was in an English environment, but I enjoyed it. It’s a tough role, easy when the team is winning, but when the team starts losing, it’s important for you to remain the same person. It was a good experience.”

As a former captain and vastly experienced player, not only will his role as scrumhalf be invaluable, but the knowledge he is able to pass on in a mentoring role.

“I learned from others as a young 9 myself, there were always experienced guys around who I could learn from, who you try to take as much knowledge from as you can, and I’ll help Stefan if he wants to know anything. He’s a very good player and I rate him. It will be nice to work with him.

After two years at Toulon, he has now come to Durban and with the Currie Cup just around the corner, the thoughts that go through his mind as he contemplates the next few months are of great excitement.

“I am very excited,” he admits. “I haven’t played in South Africa for eight seasons, so it’s been a long time for me and I’m looking forward to playing a different brand of rugby.

“I’m now at a new club and want to start well. The guys finished the Super Rugby tournament well and there is a lot of talent in the squad, I think it will be a good season. It should be, everyone is excited and training hard.”




Read more on:    sharks  |  currie cup  |  durban  |  rugby

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