Antonie Claassen joined Racing 92 in 2014 after winning the French Top 14 with Castres
Paris (AFP) - Racing 92’s South African-born France international Antonie Claassen said his side need to keep their feet on the ground despite reaching a fifth European Champions Cup quarter final in six seasons, wary of previous heartbreaks at the business-end of the tournament.
Racing made sure of their place in the quarter-finals again on Sunday with a 39-22 win over two-time champions Munster.
From their knock-out stage appearances in the competition they have gone on to lose in the final twice and have suffered last-eight defeats on the two other occasions.
“In the past we’ve been good in the groups but then in the quarters we’ve missed out. It’s a waste of time to get carried away right now,” Claassen, who won the last of his six Les Bleus caps in 2014, said.
“Even if we’ve qualified, even if we’re happy with our match the hardest part is to come,” he added.
Last season, fellow French side Toulouse beat them by just a point in Paris in the quarter-finals, which was the same margin in the same city against now three-time winners Saracens in 2015.
A victory at reigning champions Sarries next Sunday would clinch a home knockout spot in this season’s last-eight.
“It’s very important to play in front of our crowd. But last year we missed out against Toulouse and it’s up to us to make sure it doesn’t happen again,” the 35-year-old Claassen added.
Captain Henry Chavancy, who played in last March’s loss to Toulouse and has featured more than 300 times for the club, echoed his experienced back-rower’s thoughts.
“Qualifying is a good thing but it’s not an achievement because last year we qualified but we fell in the quarter-finals. It gave us a headache,” 31-year-old Chavancy said.
“We know how important it is to play these types of matches at home even if we have had bad experiences of them,” he added.
- Marseille mission -
Captain Henry Chavancy made his Racing 92 debut in 2007 as a teenager
On the two victorious knock-out occasions Racing, owned by millionaire Jacky Lorenzetti, have gone on to fall at the final hurdle, to Sarries in 2017 and Leinster a year later.
Chavancy, who has four French Test caps to his name, said his side are aiming to make it third time lucky on home turf with May’s final held at the Velodrome Stadium in Marseille.
“We know what our ambition is and it’s not just to qualify. We know whoever we get in the knockouts it’s going to be difficult,” he said.
“Our ambition is to get to Marseille and why not win this competition,” he added.
Four-time winners Leinster, English side Exeter Chiefs as well as fellow French outfit Clermont and Toulouse are guaranteed spots in the last eight with Ulster, Gloucester, Glasgow Warriors, Saracens and Munster fighting for the remaining three last spots next weekend.