Former Springbok captain and coach, Professor Johan Claassen passed away on Sunday 6 January at the age of 89.
Johannes Theodorus Claassen was the leading lineout forward in the world in the second half of the 1950s and early 1960s having formed a formidable blend with fellow lock Salty du Rand.
Claassen played in 28 Tests for the Springboks between 1955 and 1962, and also captained the Boks nine times. All told he played a total of 56 matches in green and gold.
After calling time on his playing career he was made Springbok coach in 1968, he led the team for 21 Tests until 1971, he then became a Bok selector and would chair the selection committee.
Claassen was born in the region of Prince Albert in the Karoo but after a collapse in the ostrich farming market his family moved to Potchefstroom where he shooled and played his rugby for what was then the Western Transvaal (now the Leopards) in what is now the North West Province.
He studied at Potchefstroom University starting a lifelong association with the institution first as a student then as a lecturer in teacher training and finally as a professor of biblical studies.
“Prof Claassen left an indelible mark on the South African rugby landscape, as a player, coach and administrator,” said Alexander.
“He was regarded as one of the greats of his era and after his playing days, he remained committed to the game and ensured he ploughed back, especially in his beloved Potchefstroom, where he will be remembered as one of the biggest rugby men ever.
“Prof Claassen had a strong character and was a trustworthy man – which is why he was revered until the day he passed away.
“Our thoughts and condolences are with his wife, Ada, his children, other family members and friends in this difficult time, but we know they will take solace in the fact that Prof Claassen will live in theirs and others’ memories forever.”
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