Claasen: I'm still learning the game

Claasen moved abroad to join Ajax Amsterdam back in 2008 but failed to make a single first-team appearance, despite representing South Africa at the 2009 FIFA U-20 World Cup in Egypt.

The 27-year-old's career has since lead him to Belgium, Poland, Germany and now back home to the Clever Boys, where the attacking midfielder says he is not trying to reinvent himself, but rather continue learning.

“I wouldn’t say [joining Wits] is like reinventing [myself], because as a youngster growing up you aspire to go overseas and be the next Benni McCarthy or Steven Pienaar, and at that time, Pienaar had just gone to England so I also wanted to go to Europe,” explained Claasen.

“When I went abroad, I never thought in the back of my mind that perhaps I should come back [to South Africa] to show people that I can play. [Now that I’m back] I just want to enjoy my football and learn from the coaches."

The Klerksdorp-born nephew of former Orlando Pirates full-back Brandon Silent has often been compared to former Everton midfielder Steven Pienaar due to their similar stature and style of play but denies ever feeling overshadowed by his new Wits team-mate.

“I always looked up to Pienaar when I was younger. He was one of my role models while growing up, apart from my uncle, who also played at Pirates,” he said.

“Now being able to play alongside him and learn from him is for me, personally, an honor because I also went to Ajax [Cape Town] at a young age, and I also wanted to follow his path [to Amsterdam] and I was blessed enough with that opportunity.

“It was always an honour when people said, ‘you play just like Schillo [Pienaar],’ but I wouldn’t say it's about breaking out of his shadow.

“I was always just happy to get the opportunity to play alongside him in the national team, when I got that opportunity.”