Monday 10 December 2018

Wallaby Chisholm brings experience to Munster pack

Chisholm: New Munster second-row
Chisholm: New Munster second-row
Ruaidhri O'Connor

Ruaidhri O'Connor

By agreeing to allow Paul O'Connell move to Toulon at the end of last season, Munster were leaving themselves short of second-rows for the new season and with little time to recruit a replacement.

Filling the Ireland captain's boots is an impossible task, but landing an experienced Australia international with considerable experience in France is a decent result for Anthony Foley,

At 33, Mark Chisholm brings plenty of experience to Thomond Park after winning 58 caps before spending four seasons in France with Bayonne.

His availability comes about because of the Basque club's relegation, but he proved a good fit at the club where he earned the captaincy and was released after they went down.

Handing a player who will be 33 next month a two-year contract represents a risk for a province who already have an ageing coterie of locks, but they are losing a major influence in the dressing-room.

Munster chief executive Garrett Fitzgerald hailed the new recruit's athleticism, physicality and leadership when confirming the signing yesterday and he joins Francis Saili, Tyler Bleyendaal, Gerhard van der Heever and BJ Botha as overseas signings on the province's books.

Chisholm was initially lined up by Toulon as a contingency in case the deal to sign O'Connell fell through, but the 35-year-old was released from his IRFU contract and will link up with the three-time European champions after Ireland's World Cup campaign.

Meanwhile, former Munster centre Jean de Villiers will make his eagerly-awaited return to Test rugby when he captains South Africa against Argentina in Durban on Saturday.

It is the first Test he will have played since suffering a potentially career-threatening knee injury while facing Wales in Cardiff in November.

He came off the bench when Heyneke Meyer's side played a World XV last month, but will have been worried by the impressive form of young rival Jesse Kriel who has shifted on to the wing for the Pumas clash.

"Jean's comeback is truly remarkable and very inspirational and I can't wait to see what he can offer playing next to exciting youngsters such as Handré Pollard, Damian and Jesse," Meyer said.

"Jean now has 160 minutes of rugby behind him since his comeback a month ago and I'm very satisfied that he will be able to make his mark as player and captain.

"Jesse is a very versatile player - he has played at wing before and spent almost the entire Super Rugby season at full-back. His aerial skills and work- rate, as well as tactical kicking will be valuable and hopefully he will be given even more space to attack in.

"It will be a massive Test on Saturday, which is why he have decided to build momentum and give combinations more time to settle.

"We will never accept that we lost our last two Tests. On both occasions we were in positions to win and we let it slip, which is simply not good enough. It will be tough as the Argentineans will be coming for us, as they have been doing in the last three seasons, but it will be a great test for the Boks and I can't wait for the challenge on Saturday.

"There have been many encouraging signs in Brisbane and Johannesburg but I've always preferred winning results. For most of these matches, we played well, but now we need to get back to winning ways and to do that we have to convert our opportunities into points."

South Africa (v Argentina) - W Le Roux; J Kriel, J de Villiers (capt), D de Allende, B Habana; H Pollard, R Pienaar; T Mtawarira, B du Plessis, V Koch; E Etzebeth, L de Jager; H Brussow, M Coetzee, S Burger. Replacements: A Strauss, T Nyakane, M van der Merwe, PS du Toit, S Kolisi, C Reinach, P Lambie, L Mvovo

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