Mr Mark Alexander, President of SA Rugby, paid tribute to former Springbok captain and coach, ProJohan Claassenfessor , who passed away on Sunday at the age of 89.
Johannes Theodorus Claassen was arguably the leading lineout forward in the world in the second half of the 1950s and early 1960s, forming a formidable locking combination with Salty du Rand. He played 28 Tests for the Springboks between 1955 and 1962, and also captained South Africa nine times. He played a total of 56 matches in green and gold.
Later in his career, he was a Springbok coach in 21 Tests from 1968 to 1971, a Bok selector and he also chaired the selection committee.
Prof 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 was educated and played his rugby for Western Transvaal (now the Leopards).
He studied at Potchefstroom University at the start of a lifelong association with the institution first as a student and lecturer in teacher training and then 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 Mr 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.”