Worcester full-back Errie Claassens to join Bristol Rugby next season
BRISTOL'S focus is very much on this evening's game against Leeds – but they have shown they have an eye on the future by signing Errie Claassens for next season.
The Worcester full-back – the elder brother of Bath and South Africa scrum-half Michael – will join Bristol in the summer.
The 31-year-old, who can also play on the wing, has scored seven tries in 26 appearances for Worcester, and has also represented London Welsh and Rotherham in England.
And he hopes to play Aviva Premiership rugby during his time at Bristol – either next season or in 2014-15.
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"It would be wonderful for the club if they were promoted this season – and anything is possible, as we have seen in the last few seasons in the Championship," said Claassens.
"But, if not, then at least I know I am going to a club with so much ambition and the right culture. It will be fantastic to be a part of something like that and, hopefully, help the club get back to being as successful as it has been before.
"I know from experience that the Championship is a difficult league – sometimes it can be harder to get out of the Championship than it is to stay in the Premiership. But with the players and the ambition Bristol have, I feel confident about the future. And it feels as if a club like Bristol needs to be in the Premiership. Everything is in place to be there."
Claassens, who is one year and one day older than his more famous brother, has been in England for eight seasons and is therefore classed as an English-qualified player.
And Bristol head coach Liam Middleton is pleased to have captured a player he has admired for many seasons.
"We're delighted to secure Errie's services for next season," he said. "He's a hugely talented individual who gives us options in a number of positions across the back-line.
"I've always been impressed with Errie, particularly the threat that he poses in attack. His accurate left-footed kicking ability is of huge value to us.
"Having watched him in the Aviva Premiership over the last two seasons, he became a key target for me."
Claassens will stay with Worcester for the remainder of the season, but is already looking forward to linking up with his new team-mates after doing his homework on Bristol.
"I have spoken to a few players who have played for Bristol and there was a lot of positive feedback from them," he said. "I've heard a lot of good stuff about the club.
"Maybe it's frustrating for the club to be in the Championship but I'm excited by the ambition to get back into the Premiership.
"I have been impressed by everything about Bristol – the club, the city, Liam Middleton and the squad – and it's a very exciting time for me."
Bristol have recalled Ryan Edwards, Ben Mosses, Mariano Sambucetti and Redford Pennycook for this evening's key Championship clash with Leeds at the Memorial Stadium.
Mike Tagicakibau and Fautua Otto both miss out as they continue their respective rehabilitation from injuries.
Bristol: J Tovey; G Watkins, L Eves, B Mosses, R Edwards; A Jarvis, J Grindal (capt); K Traynor, R Johnston, J Hobson, M Sambucetti, G Townson, M Mama, R Pennycook, M Eadie. Reps: R Lawrence, M Lilley, W Thompson, B Glynn, A Faosiliva, T Roberts, R Tipuna.
Leeds: S McColl; M Clark, J Griffin, P Lucock, D Doherty; R Clegg, C Hampson; S Lockwood, P Nilsen, D Tussac, C Green, D Barrow, R Baldwin, J Rowan (capt), R Burrows. Reps: J Graham, B Harris, B Hooper, M Smith, M Myerscough, J Doherty, C Georgiou.