A Claassen of his own

Tue, 12 Feb 2013 14:27
It came as a total surprise

UP-Tuks President and 1981 Springbok captain Wynand Claassen was lost for words when his son, and former UP-Tuks captain, Antonie got the call-up to the French squad.

Antonie played for UP-Tuks for five years after leaving school in 2002, after which he moved to France, and following five tough years in the Top 14 with Brive and Castres he was named in France's squad for the Six Nations clash against England at Twickenham next weekend.

Wynand admitted to varsitycup.co.za that his son's call-up came as a shock, but that he is incredibly proud of what he has achieved since leaving South Africa.

He said: "It is amazing I must be honest, it came as a total surprise. We are very proud of him and whatever he has done, so it is great.

"He went there at the end of 2007, as the World Cup started. He finished the season with Tuks here and then went over so he has been there for five and a half years now," said the UP-Tuks President.

The legendary Bok captain said that Antonie's story should serve as something of an inspiration for young players looking to make a career out of rugby as it shows how far hard work and determination can get you.

He explained: "I just bought him a ticket to go to France  - he had no money, no contract, he had nothing.

"He went to Brive for a trial run and they liked him and said he must stay but it took him three months to sort out his visa so he couldn't play, then he started playing for the second team.

"So that is the nice thing for me - that he built himself up on his own.

"I think it is a lesson to a lot of lighties coming out of school who have big contracts. He had a junior contract here with the Bulls but after two years they stopped it.

"I think it must be an inspiration to a lot of Varsity Cup boys, it is fantastic," he added.

Antonie may have only just missed out on playing Varsity Cup rugby, but his father believes that his career shows the importance of a solid grounding - which is exactly what the Varsity Cup provides.

"Antonie was captain of Tukkies in 2005, and Corniel van Zyl who is playing for Italy was captain in 2001 and 2002, so it is amazing.

"Antonie played for Tuks over a period of five years. He just missed out on Varsity Cup, all his teammates from 2007 went on to play Varsity Cup in 2008, but by then Antonie was already in France.

"The Varsity Cup really is tremendous, I think it is fantastic. It is really putting university rugby on the map again.

"So many of these schoolboys coming here from Craven Week all want to have contracts and that kind of thing, but now you have got Varsity Cup so they can come through the ranks," he said.