Johann van Graan talks about his new role at Irish club
Munster coach Johann van Graan‚ on his homecoming to South Africa since leaving the Springbok set-up‚ would not be drawn on his view of the coming international season.
Van Graan‚ one of the brightest young coaches in SA‚ spent six years with the Boks as an assistant coach‚ where he filled numerous roles.
Having known some good times with the Boks and some low times – particularly in 2016 and 2017 – Van Graan would not venture an opinion on how things might change now that his Munster predecessor Rassie Erasmus is Springbok head coach.
“I’m in Ireland now and I wouldn’t like to comment on SA Rugby‚” Van Graan.
“I left here on a good footing.
“I wish the Springboks and SA Rugby well.
"The Boks will always be close to my heart but at this stage I’m part of the Irish system and all my commitment lies there.
“Every nation is different. South Africa plays in a unique way and they have certain strengths‚ as do the Irish.
“What I’ve found in Ireland is that the Irish have found system that works for them from top to bottom. I’m in Ireland to learn and I’m happy to be part of this system.”
Van Graan was brought into the Bok squad when Heyneke Meyer was appointed coach in 2012 and retained his position for two seasons under Allister Coetzee.
That relationship was fraught at times‚ having started with Coetzee insisting that Van Graan honour his Bok contract at the beginning of 2016‚ after the latter had been approached by Bath.
Van Graan stayed on with the Boks but began to cut an increasingly lonely figure as an ‘outsider’ to Coetzee’s inner circle.
In a now infamous letter to SA Rugby days before he was sacked‚ Coetzee bemoaned how some of the coaching staff had been foisted on him.
Van Graan‚ although not named‚ was one of those people Coetzee referenced in his letter.
Munster though have snared one of SA’s best young coaching talents and Van Graan has continued the good work started by Erasmus during his 20 months at the Irish club.
Munster are second on the PRO 14 Pool A standings and are guaranteed a play-off berth while they are also one of three PRO 14 sides in the European Champions Cup semi-finals.
Van Graan has settled in well and was full of praise for the way he has been accepted into the club and community.
“It’s a big challenge to move to another country but I have been fortunate to come to a fantastic club where I have been made welcome and looked after very well‚” Van Graan said.
“Despite some differences‚ rugby still remains rugby.
"Your team has to be good at breakdown and at set pieces. Those are massive aspects in the northern hemisphere.
“But what has really surprised me has been the speed of the game in the north. There is also a lot of skill‚ and some very skilful players too.
“I’ve loved every minute of it so far‚ and I’m fortunate to be part of this club.
“I joined straight after the French Test last November and went straight into a lot of games with Munster. It’s not about me though‚ it’s about the club.
“It’s unique to see how fans in the northern hemisphere love their clubs and will support them.”