Van Graan: South African heat ideal for Racing prep
Munster got together in Athlone yesterday for their first squad session since Andrew Conway's wonder try snatched such a dramatic victory over Toulon on Saturday.
But it wasn't at the home of Buccaneers RFC where Johann van Graan put the squad through their paces, but rather the Cape Town suburb of Athlone on a sweltering morning.
Munster are using a pitch belonging to Western Province and will also be based at this small stadium, about 10km south of Cape Town.
The players were grateful for a light breeze yesterday morning as the temperature hit 23C for their session, but Van Graan said that getting used to these conditions will also prepare the squad for the heat in Bordeaux on Sunday fortnight against Racing 92.
"Heat will be a factor for the next couple of weeks," he said. "Weather-wise, it is totally different from what we are used to in Ireland but also in terms of our preparation, good planning for the game in France in three weeks.
"It will be hot and humid in George and high altitude in Bloemfontein. But we will just take it day by day."
First up is a clash with the Southern Kings in George - CJ Stander's home town - on Saturday and then Munster face the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein in a key Conference A clash which could go a long way towards deciding the home quarter-finalists in the Guinness PRO14.
Van Graan, back home in his native South Africa for the first time since taking charge of Munster before Christmas, said they enjoyed the win over Toulon but it was done and dusted and all that matters now is what lies ahead.
"We start at zero every week," he said at training at City Park in southern Cape Town yesterday.
"Obviously, we enjoyed the win over Toulon, a massive win for the team and the club. But it's in the past now, it's back to PRO14 now, a new challenge in South Africa and we have got some important games coming up."
He has brought a squad of 30 with him to South Africa and has all bar Simon Zebo and Darren Sweetnam available for this weekend.
Both players went through a light training session but won't be risked this week.
"Darren has got a small twinge in his hamstring and Zeebs has got a lot of bruising on his hip, he has got a hip-pointer, so we will monitor through the next week and see how they go," said Van Graan.
Munster are likely to rest some front-line players this weekend for the clash against the Conference B basement side. However, with players battling to be involved at the business end of the season, Van Graan doesn't expect any fall-off in the level of performance.
He confirmed that he had already decided to bring the full squad to South Africa for this two-match tour, no matter how Saturday's clash with Toulon went.
"We were going to bring the same squad one way or the other, regardless of the outcome of the game against Toulon," added Van Graan.
"We were obviously hoping for a positive result in the quarter-final and these are a very important two weeks for us in terms of the PRO14 and we want to get that home quarter-final spot and for that to happen we need to put in two good performances over here," he said.
The Munster squad will make the 430km journey to George by road later today, with the scenic drive through the Western Cape taking about five hours.
They will hold their Captain's Run at Outeniqua Park in George tomorrow as they wrap up their preparations for Saturday evening's game.
The squad will return to Cape Town by road on Sunday and will be based there until they fly to Bloemfontein the following Thursday, the day before they take on the Cheetahs on the Highveld.
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