In a feature from the latest issue of SA Rugby magazine, we caught up with former Cheetahs, Sharks and Bath scrumhalf Michael Claassens.
Michael Claassens was one of those players who were fortunate enough to carve out a successful career both locally and abroad before it became a common trend. A livewire scrumhalf, Claassens enjoyed a 16-year playing career which included stints at the Cheetahs, Cats, Bath, Toulon and the Sharks as well as appearances for SA U21, SA A, the Springboks and the Barbarians on the international front.
He won the Currie Cup with the Free State Cheetahs in 2005, the European Challenge Cup with Bath in 2008 and French Top 14 and Champions Cup titles with the dominant Toulon side in 2014. And yet, the most precious thing for Claassens is the relationships the game allowed him to forge with people from all over the world.
‘Having the opportunity to play with world-class players from around the world was wonderful,’ Claassens tells SA Rugby magazine. ‘I was able to share a dressing room and the field with the likes of Matt Giteau, Jonny Wilkinson and Butch James and also became good friends with them.’
Despite all the good moments outweighing the bad ones, a single regret Claassens still harbours was the missing out World Cup selection.
‘Making my Test debut against Wales in 2004 was the proudest moment of my career, but the one low point for me was not going to a World Cup in 2007.’
After spending nine seasons in Europe, Claassens returned home where he played for the Sharks between 2015 and 2018 before announcing his retirement from an eventful career.
LIFE AFTER RUGBY
Claassens made a seamless transition from the big stages of the sporting world to the corporate one, all while staying involved in the administrative side of the game as well.
‘I’m a financial planner at Plan For Life (PFL), a financial advisory company based in Umhlanga,’ Claassens says. ‘I’m also a relations manager at the player-management company Esportif. I work with and represent the company’s players who are playing for the Sharks.’
Claassens argues that he is busier on the home front than he is at his two jobs combined. This is because the Claassens family consists of five children (three daughters and two sons, including two sets of twins) aged seven and under. Claassens and wife Helen-Ann have been married for 14 years, but struggled to conceive. In 2013, after seven years of marriage, the couple had daughter Jóco (7) through artificial insemination.
After another round of failed IVF treatment and two miscarriages from natural pregnancies, the Claassens had twins Michael and Anick (5) and two years later they welcomed another set of twins Beauden and Teagen (3).
‘We live in Ballito and there’s never a dull or a quiet moment in this house,’ Claassens says. ‘We are quite active. We go to the beach or to the pools often and the kids love driving on the golf carts. I’m not sure if any of them has a sporting streak as they are still young. And for now that’s enough. We are enjoying them before they are all grown up.’
Photo: Steve Haag/Gallo Images