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
“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
“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
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
“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.”