Leinster second-row admits season with Munster was ‘very frustrating’
There were plenty of times across the course of his season with Munster that Jason Jenkins could have felt sorry for himself.
However, he never had to look too far to realise there is always someone worse off, as he watched his team-mate and close friend RG Snyman go through an extremely difficult period.
The pair’s relationship goes back a long way, as they played under-age rugby together in South Africa before being part of the same Bulls team.
Jenkins spoke to Snyman before he joined Munster in 2021, with the latter only having good things to say about the province and his time in Limerick, despite not being able to make the impact he had hoped.
The second-row duo spent plenty of time together in the rehab room, as Snyman suffered back-to-back ACL ruptures, while Jenkins battled several smaller injuries.
By the time his contract was up at Munster, Jenkins had only managed to play 10 games, one fewer than he has played in half a season with Leinster.
Looking back on his short stay down south, Jenkins has regrets about how it played out, yet Snyman’s travails put things in perspective.
“One-hundred per cent, we’d sit together on the weekends and watch all the games – and I’ll feel bad if I complain, so I’d rather just stay quiet because he’s been through hell in the last two years,” Jenkins says.
“In terms of his knee and off-field things, he’s really had a tough time. I’m really hoping to see him back on the field soon and just to see him crack on. He’s an incredible player. I think Munster will really benefit as soon as he’s back on the field.
“It’s frustrating for him, he wanted to go there and make an impact – and he just hasn’t been able to do that.”
Even in his brief stint with Leinster, Jenkins has shown why Johann van Graan was so keen to bring him to Munster – and while he was relishing his time in blue before a hamstring injury last month sidelined him again, the 27-year-old wishes he could have produced some of the same powerful performances for Munster.
“Initially when I signed at Munster, it was obviously a risk just signing a one-year contract,” Jenkins reflects.
“Most players probably wouldn’t do that, usually it’s a standard two years or more. But I was willing to take that risk. I felt that coming from Japan, I needed to have that step up in rugby.
“It was obviously very frustrating for me, and I think for coach Johann (Van Graan) at the time and the fans. Obviously if you get a new signing, you want them to make an impact but it (injury) is part of the game.
“Getting a couple of games at the back of last season, it was mostly off the bench, so it wasn’t the impact I’d have liked to have made. It was frustrating, you lose a bit of faith in your body and you start asking questions like, ‘Why is all of this happening?’”
Jenkins hopes to have recovered from his hamstring injury in the coming weeks, as he targets a big second half of the season.
Although there is a sense that Jenkins would have liked a chance to repay the faith shown in him by Munster, he is grateful for Leinster giving him a second chance in Ireland.
“They are both extremely professional set-ups, and it’s been an honour to be part of both of them,” he says.
“The way Leinster train, there’s a lot of ownership on the players, which is really nice to see. Attention to detail is another big thing as well. I’ve had to step up in that department.
“Leinster doesn’t really try and build up a team that we are playing against or a game in particular. You’re always focusing on yourself – and, as a team, we take a lot of confidence from how we prepare. So I think that’s a big thing, just executing what we want to do, and I think that’s what makes it difficult for teams to keep up with us.”
Jenkins, who has been capped once in 2018, was recalled to the South Africa squad last November – and although he didn’t make the breakthrough with the Springboks, he was involved with the ‘A’ team, which suggests he isn’t far away, despite the fierce second-row competition.
With plenty of big games left in Leinster’s season, Jenkins is aiming to catch Rassie Erasmus and Jacques Nienaber’s eye, and force his way into the Boks’ World Cup squad.
Considering Ireland will face South Africa at the pool stages later this year, Jenkins’ inside track on Leinster’s strong Irish contingent would come in handy, but he is keen to stress that the Boks coaches haven’t pressed him for any details.
“I think there was a lot of speculation a couple of months ago around that. I can honestly say Rassie and Jacques didn’t ask me anything,” Jenkins insists.
“I mean, guys have to understand that they do their homework for months before they play against Ireland. So, when we walk in the room, they’ve analysed everything and everyone. There’s probably not much that I could add to all the incredible detail that they go into.”
As for the prospect of taking on some familiar Leinster and Munster faces in Paris come September, Jenkins adds: “That would be something special, but we’ll see what happens.”