Jean Kleyn happily looking forward to ‘Saffers’ reunion
Munster lock relishing the prospect of taking on Toulon in the quarter final at Thomond
Munster’s Jean Kleyn is tackled by Castres’ Tudor Stroe and Daniel Kotze at Thomond Park. Photograph: Gary Carr/Inpho
The quarter-final between Munster and Toulon promises to be quite a reunion for the many South Africans in both camps. As well as new head coach Johann van Graan and new defence coach JP Ferreira, Munster’s playing squad has a plethora of South Africans, as does Toulon’s.
“There’ll be a lot of Saffers there as well,” noted one of them, Munster lock Jean Kleyn. “I played a good couple of years with Duane Vermeulen [at the Stormers]. He was big role model of mine when I was younger, so it’s going to be interesting going up against him. Toulon are a fantastic side, very strong. It’s going to be a massive challenge and as always the fans will turn up, so we’ll make sure we turn up as well and we’ll pull that win through.”
Vermeulen is one of five South Africans on Toulon’s expensively assembled roster at Toulon, who qualified by dint of obtaining a bonus point in their epic 30-27 defeat at the Scarlets on Saturday night
“I only saw a glimpse of last night’s game, obviously I haven’t spent any amount of time on them,” said van Graan. “I know Duane Vermeulen very well, he’s a massive part of Toulon. I’ve coached a few guys who play there – Marcel van der Merwe, Juandré Kruger, Bryan Habana... quality side, they’ve been doing pretty well in Europe over the past few years.
“They’re an unbelievable team and brand, we look forward to that game. A quarter-final in Europe, it’ll be my first, I’m very glad it’s here at Thomond Park. I’ll get a bit of distance from rugby now and enjoy tonight, get my thoughts in line and as a squad we’ll reconvene in a week’s time and go from there.”
At any rate, Kleyn said Munster had achieved their first objective of the season.
“You go out at the start of the season and you say you need to get a least a home quarter-final and you know if you could have secured a home semi-final that would have been the top prize. We haven’t got that so now it comes down to winning the quarter-final and doing the prep for the semi-final to come.”
“Obviously there is a massive task ahead of us with Toulon. They’re an extremely strong side, full of internationals. It’s going to be a challenge but I’m sure the boys are up for it.”
Kleyn revealed he was one of those who utilised the extra three hours before kick-off to return to the team hotel to grab some sleep.
“I do a lot of napping on game days, to conserve energy. And a little bit of a snack.”
His stand-out memory of the day though will be the sight of the crowd when the players returned for the delayed kick-off.
“I never for a million years thought that the stadium would be packed again after a three-hour delay. I didn’t see it happening. When we arrived on the bus I thought, ‘jeez, it’s gonna look like a PRO14 game in there’. I was blown away when I walked on to the field first. It was packed. So that’s probably something I’ll take with me.”
Kleyn also maintained the final scoreline at Thomond Park gave a misleading picture to the contest.
“They are a big side and they really came for us today at our home and I gave away a silly penalty in the first couple of minutes but it’s just the nature of the game you know. It’s just so confrontational when you take on these big French sides.”
Kleyn was also asked how the squad blocked out the ‘noise’ surrounding his fellow South African lock Gerbrandt Grobler’s previous two-year suspension for taking performance enhancing drugs.
“Look, at the end of the day we are a team. As Munster, we play for each other and we back each other. Even though some guys might have made mistakes in the past, I think Donncha O’Callaghan stated it very well when he said ‘hate the sin, don’t hate the sinner’. And I think that is mostly what we do, we support each other no matter what we go through. Mistakes were made, he turned over a new leaf and we support him fully.”