Tuesday 20 August 2019

'When I walked through the doors I could just taste winning' - Johann van Graan's first interview with Munster

Munster head coach Johann van Graan during Munster Rugby Squad Training at the University of Limerick in Limerick. Photo by Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile
Munster head coach Johann van Graan during Munster Rugby Squad Training at the University of Limerick in Limerick. Photo by Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile
Independent.ie Newsdesk

Independent.ie Newsdesk

New Munster Head Coach Johann van Graan said that he could just taste winning when he walked through Munster's training base at the University of Limerick this week.

van Graan will take over Munster for the first time this weekend when the Irish province head to Parma to take on Zebre on Sunday.

The South African has said that he will look to lean on assistants Jerry Flannery and Felix Jones for the first game as he continues to acclimatise to his new surroundings in Limerick.

“I am loving my time thus far,” said Van Graan on Friday.

“It has been very busy the last few weekends. I was here for the Racing game, flew to South Africa and went straight into Springbok camp. I finished off with two test matches, the last one on Saturday evening with the Springboks against the French.

“This is my third day at the office, loving it at this stage and loving to be here. You can sense that this is a special club.

“I really enjoyed Felix [Jones] and Jerry [Flannery] the previous times I was over and I had a very good debrief with Rassie [Erasmus] and Jacques [Nienaber]. So we have been planning for this all along – they’re [Flannery and Jones] taking the lead in the rugby this week.

“I’m looking forward to the game at the weekend and from Monday next week I will take full control.”

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van Graan moves to Munster after five years with the Springboks where he initially joined the South African setup as a technical adviser before eventually taking over the reins as the team's forward coach.

The 37-year-old takes over at Munster following a successful period with Erasmus and Nienbar at the helm, which saw Munster advance to the PRO12 final and the semi-finals of the Champions Cup last season.

van Graan said that there is an aura of winning around the province and that Munster's facilities match some of the best training bases he's visited.

"When I walked through those doors you can taste winning," added van Graan.

"I've been to spots like the New England Patriots, the Westpoint Academy, just north of New York, and places like Racing Metro; this ranks up there among the best in the world.

"I'm very fortunate to be apart of this and this is not all about me. It's about Munster Rugby, the people working here and the people who have been here before."

Meanwhile on the pitch, James Cronin and Keith Earls are two of at least 18 Munster players to miss van Graan's first game in charge.

Earls and Cronin have both been ruled out of this weekend's trip to Parma as they continue to rehabilitate from respective calf and hamstring injuries, while Tommy O'Donnell (shoulder), Duncan Williams (shoulder) and Tyler Bleyendaal (neck) will also miss out through injury despite showing signs of improvement.

Elsewhere Gerbrandt Grobler (ankle), Conor Oliver (shoulder), Dan Goggin (knee), Dave O’Callaghan (knee), Jaco Taute (knee) and Niall Scannell (thumb) continue to sit on the sidelines as they recover from their respective injuries, while Chris Farrell, Conor Murray, Peter O'Mahony, CJ Stander, Dave Kilcoyne, John Ryan, Ian Keatley and Andrew Conway are unavailable after being selected for Ireland's Test match with Argentina on Satuday.

On a more positive note for van Graan, number eight Jack O’Donoghue returned to training this week following a minor ankle injury sustained against the Dragons earlier this month while Ronan O’Mahony returned to on-field training last week as he continues his return from a fractured fibula.

It had been initially expected that van Graan, Erasmus and Nienaber would work in tandem for a period before the departing duo returned to take up positions with the South African unions, but instead van Graan will now be in sole charge against Zebre.

However, the former Springboks forwards coach did spend a week in Limerick last month ahead of the Racing 92 victory where he observed preparations and was introduced to the players.

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