Clinical Zebo providing cutting edge for Munster again

Van Graan hoping prolific winger can help the province end their long trophy famine

Johann van Graan is hoping that Simon Zebo's first hat-trick for Munster in 7½ years is going to lead to a flurry of tries by the province's top scorer as they bid to end their trophy famine.

Zebo took his haul of Munster tries to 67 in 161 games on Friday night when his third touchdown three minutes from time secured a bonus point 34-20 win over Edinburgh at Thomond Park.

It was Zebo’s fourth hat-trick for Munster and his first since scoring three against Zebre in September 2014 at Thomond Park.

His first hat-trick arrived in a superb display against Northampton Saints in the Heineken Cup in January 2012 in a tie played at the MK Dons ground in England.


A year later he again notched a hat-trick in Europe, showing his future employers Racing 92 what he was capable of when running in three against them at Thomond Park.

Zebo, who got nine tries in 35 Irish appearances, also scored a hat-trick for Racing against Perpignan in the Top 14 in May 2019.

Friday night’s hat-trick brings Zebo’s total to seven tries in seven appearances this season and equals the seven he scored in 25 games in his final campaign before heading to Racing 92 in the summer of 2018.

Zebo had scored four tries in six appearances prior to Friday night, having notched a brace in his first match back from Paris against the Sharks, while he also got two against Wasps in the Champions Cup last month.

He went one better on Friday night and completed the hat-trick which keeps Munster on course for a home semi-final in the United Rugby Championship.

“In the last few years we have learned that if you want to get to the final you have to get a home semi-final,” said van Graan.

But he warned that there is still a lot to be decided in the URC, not least as all four provinces have to head to his native South Africa for games.

Big say

Munster return there for their refixed clashes with the Bulls and Lions next month after both those games were postponed before Christmas due to Covid, with van Graan’s squad stranded there for some time before getting home in dribs and drabs.

Van Graan said the South African teams will still have a big say in deciding this season’s URC table.

“Everyone has still to go down there and it is going to be a massive challenge for the teams from the northern hemisphere to learn what it takes to play at Loftus and Ellis Park and Cape Town Stadium and in Durban. That is a massive challenge.”

All the more reason then for van Graan to welcome Zebo’s return to form and his scoring prowess, with the winger nabbing a hat-trick despite not touching the ball more than half a dozen times.

“He is a special player; he finishes the opportunities he gets. He just takes those chances that come his way,” added van Graan.

“That is why he is the X-factor in your team because he is able to ensure the team gets the bonus point. It is great to have Zeebs come back into the team.”