TOM BRADSHAW: New deal sees Claassens ride to Bath's rescue once again
A very good history of Bath during the rugby club's heyday has recently been published, as these pages have documented.
But when the final word comes to be written on Bath Rugby in the 21st century, it will be a modest South African who couldn't speak English when he arrived in the city who should receive a chapter all of his own.
For the second time in his career, Michael Claassens rode to Bath Rugby's rescue yesterday and brought stability to a shaky situation.
A lot of things feel like they are up in the air at The Rec at the moment.
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Club skipper Luke Watson has announced he is heading back to South Africa at the end of the season, while World Cup winner Butch James has also indicated he'd be keen to pack his bags swiftly enough should Bath release him from his contract.
Couple that with the speculation that has been doing the rounds about a new coaching team being lined up by owner Bruce Craig and the storm clouds of uncertainty were beginning to look ominously heavy.
Yesterday, Claassens' peroxide blond locks pierced those clouds when the club announced the scrum- half had signed a new two-year deal.
After four years at The Rec, Claassens could have left Bath at the end of this season owing the club and its supporters precisely nothing.
It was a bold enough move for the Kroonstad-born former Springbok to bring his non-English speaking wife over here four years ago.
By upping sticks and leaving South Africa, the eight-cap international was effectively turning his back on further appearances in the gold and green, and taking a step into the unknown.
What Claassens has delivered for Bath since then is season after season of graft, spark and honesty.
A year-and-half ago, this softly spoken gent was handed a poisoned chalice when he was asked to captain the club following the summer's drugs scandal.
In those circumstances, the captaincy was always going to be a thankless task – but Claassens stepped up and bore it all with an unceasing attitude of composure, politeness and unblinking stoicism. And by the end of the campaign, after a torrid beginning, Bath were playing the most attractive rugby of the Premiership.
With his best mate and half-back partner Butch James more than likely to be heading home at the end of the season, it would have been the easy option for Claassens to follow him back to South Africa,
That he isn't, but is once again sticking by Bath during a tough period, should be a source of gratitude for every supporter. If you've any festive port left over, then you should be preparing a toast.
It is not a matter of record what time the London Irish quartet of Sailosi Tagicakibau, Topsy Ojo, Delon Armitage and Tom Homer could run the 4x100m in but I'd be willing to bet an hour's wage that they wouldn't – with a bit of baton practice – be too far behind Team GB.
However, as Bath's forwards proved in the second half of Saturday's win, speed isn't everything.
The blue, black and white pack has shown promise at the maul throughout this season, even when their set-piece has been rocky. Such promise, however, has been frustrated by too many referees failing to show the same whistle-happy enthusiasm at the maul as they show at the scrum.
That referee Greg Garner was so keen to keep the maul on its legs on Saturday is good news, not only for the game but for Bath.