As the All Blacks were slipping up against the Wallabies in Hong Kong, there was a big guy in Dutch colours cheering them on at a Hamilton hotel.

Jozef Klaassen is a member of the Dutch eight at the world championships but was born in Thames, living in New Zealand until he was 20.

And while he's based in Amsterdam, his parents, Ria and Loek, are in Whakatane and his five brothers and sister all reside around New Zealand.

"I'm a Kiwi, I was in here cheering on the All Blacks. It was terrible they lost," Klaassen, 27, said.

"I'm still the guy who walks around in bare feet outside," he quipped.

Klaassen started rowing at 17 after leaving Whakatane High School and was good enough to represent New Zealand at age-group level before taking up a scholarship for Boston University.

Four years there earned him a degree in business management. In 2005, he rowed a summer with the Dutch under-23 squad and he made the Olympic squad for Beijing in 2008.

The Netherlands were fourth in that final. Yesterday they were fourth in their heat and must reach the final through a repechage tomorrow.

Klaassen talks fondly of New Zealand and is still in regular contact with Wybo Veldman, one of the all-time greats and member of the famous 1972 Munich Olympic eight.

He has just started a job with an investment bank, and is pretty sure the London Olympics in 2012 will end his rowing days - "rowing doesn't pay bills. Unfortunately it's not golf. I've had a fantastic run, but it's going to have to end."

Klaassen drew a distinction in rowing development between New Zealand and the Netherlands.

"It does have quite a large university presence in Holland," he said. "People don't start rowing until they're 18.

"Generally it's much earlier here. In New Zealand it's the high schools, and there's the Maadi Cup [the national secondary schools champs], which is fantastic."

Being back on Lake Karapiro has brought back memories for Klaassen.

"I love Karapiro, love racing here. New Zealand rowing has done a great job improving facilities and their own programme. Since I left, it's really taken off and they have phenomenal depth in the programme."

Klaassen's mind is now on helping the Dutch at the London Games.

"We were third in Poland [at last year's worlds] so we're looking to lay down a solid performance here to cement our progress and give us a good grounding for moving on to London."