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Cullen: We have to match Munster Bok brute


Leinster’s Ryan Baird

Leinster’s Ryan Baird

Leinster’s Ryan Baird

One of the challenges facing the teams at the Aviva Stadium is communication. In an empty stadium, how do you keep your calls hidden from the opposition?

It has been suggested, somewhat mischeviously, that Munster might look at switching to Afrikaans given the increasing South African influence at the club.

With five men from the Rainbow Nation on the pitch and two more in the coaching box, it's hard to deny the green and gold seem running through the province right now.


Two are Springbok World Cup winners, two are Ireland internationals and the other - Chris Cloete - qualifies to play for his adopted nation in November.

In a fixture where local pride is at stake, Johann van Graan's outfit travel north with a diverse mix of players from across the island and beyond.

Still, 10 of their starters are home grown and they'll know all about what this fixture means to the folks watching from the province.

And the imports, particularly those from South Africa, have the physical edge that can help them take Leinster into a dark place.

"South Africa are a hugely physical team. After losing their first game against New Zealand, when they had some chances early in that game, but then New Zealand scored a couple of quick tries, they went about their business in terms of getting to the final," Leo Cullen said yesterday.

"Rugby is a simple game. That set-piece battle is hugely important. South Africa were the better team in that regard (in the final), particularly around the scrum as it gave them a lot of access into the game in terms of field position or kicking three points.

"Around the contact they are hugely aggressive and they had some very good 'D' sets where they dug in well for each other and came out with some big turnovers on their own try line.

"So, I am sure Munster have a little bit of that, as there are lots of South Africans in their squad now, whatever the number is, some starting some off the bench, and they have a big physical presence.

"It is important that we are able to get to that same level and try to match it and get beyond the physical level those guys bring."

In recruiting RG Snyman and Damian De Allende, Munster have made a statement about their intentions for the coming years. And Cullen is impressed by the calibre of player Van Graan has attracted to the club.

"We know they're two very good players, we all saw them at the World Cup," he said.

"Damian de Allande has a good skill-set, is strong in terms of his running but he's also got subtleties to his game, good footwork.

"I remember first seeing him when I was at a Crusaders game against the Stormers in 2014. He was a very good footballer, scored a try that day.

"I saw RG Snyman play for the South Africa U-20s years ago and he's been on the radar ever since.

"He's a hugely big man, still very young, for a lock that is - but not as young as one of our locks who is stepping into the team (Ryan Baird).

"It should be a good battle. We know it's a huge game for Munster because of where they sit in their conference and trying to get ahead of Edinburgh. I'm sure they're building strongly and it will be a great test for our guys."

Matching up against Snyman is a good test of where 21-year-old prospect Baird is with his development.

"It's about trying to put him into the game and seeing how he copes with the demands," Cullen said. "People have seen different glimpses of his athletic ability so it's just about how he pulls it all together."