Tuesday 23 October 2018

Van Graan backed to thrive at Munster ahead of his November 20 start date

Assistant coach Johann van Graan. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Assistant coach Johann van Graan. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Ruaidhri O'Connor

Ruaidhri O'Connor

Springbok coach Allister Coetzee has hailed Munster's appointment of his assistant Johann van Graan as a "massive gain" for the Irish province.

The South Africa forwards and attack coach will remain with the national team for the first two Tests of their end-of-year tour to the northern hemisphere against Ireland and France before taking over the reins in two weeks' time ahead of Munster's meeting with Zebre.

This week, he is in Dublin preparing his team to face a side that is likely to contain a host of his new club's best players having spent a week in Limerick last month where he met with the squad, sat in on meetings and watched their win over Racing 92.

Coetzee railed against the appointment before it was confirmed, but now that he is resigned to losing his assistant he has heaped praise on Munster's new man.

"He has been massive and besides his tactical info and coaching ability he is a good person as a human being," he said at the team's base in south Dublin yesterday.

"He has been doing a good job for the Springboks over the last few years and it will be a big loss to the Springboks but a massive gain for Munster. He has been working well in our coaching structures."

Van Graan has never held a head coach's position but Coetzee does not believe the leap from assistant to main man will be too much for him.

"Assistant is a starting point to being a coach and once you have been a good one that makes it easier to become a good head coach as well," he said.

"His knowledge of the game is second to none. He is a hard worker and that's what you need from an assistant coach. Tactically, he's very astute."

Munster and SA Rugby have confirmed that Van Graan will begin his duties at the province on November 20, the Monday after the 'Boks face France.

Coetzee has confirmed that his team have a clean bill of health for Saturday's opener against Ireland at the Aviva Stadium, with captain Eben Etzebeth fit to train at Donnybrook yesterday.

Prop Coenie Oosthuizen and back-row Uzair Cassiem have also overcome their injury issues and will be available.

If the Munster contingent in the Ireland set-up are bothered by Van Graan's presence in the enemy camp, Earls wasn't showing it yesterday.

"I have barely met Johann, just met him briefly and shook his hand.

"Rassie (Erasmus) and Jacques (Nienaber) are gone now and we turn over another leaf in Munster," he said.

"I hear good things about Johann and I look forward to working with him in the future."

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