Johann van Graan yearning for perfect performance from Munster
Coach says province is improving but ‘quite a way off’ accomplishing such a feat
Munster head coach Johann van Graan says he expects a “big battle” against Castres this weekend. Photograph: Laszlo Geczo/Inpho
Van Graan has seen glimpses of Munster’s best against Edinburgh recently, in last season’s European quarter-final against Toulon and in their home win over Saturday’s opponent Castres last season, but the drive for perfection continues.
A win away to Castres this weekend will put Munster in a commanding position at the top of Pool 3, which they already lead by three points over Gloucester, and van Graan wants to see his troops dominate.
“From a coach’s point of view, every week that’s why I say ‘every week we start at zero’. Every week you strive for the perfect game. I’ve only been involved in two or three in my whole career where you say ‘that’s close to the perfect game’,” said van Graan.
“We want to get there as a squad, it would be great to play the [perfect] game every week, but I think we’re showing improvements in each department.
“We’re quite a way off that at this stage and we have to fight to get there.
“Our first 30 minutes against Edinburgh from an attacking point of view, the way we moved and the speed we were at I think we were pretty close then. The second half of round six last year against Castres last year, I thought we did that really well. Some parts of the Toulon match stand out, but a perfect game, no not yet.
“That’s the beauty of it, we have such a long way to go.”
Facing the same side for the second time in the space of six days will inevitably bring some tension into the game, but van Graan will hope his side avoids that particular pitfall. Instead he is more concerned about what sort of game plan the French champions have devised.
In Thomond Park they played a very basic kicking and carrying game, which Munster coped admirably with. The coach has no idea if Castres have played their full hand.
“We were very well prepared and I thought our plan worked really well. Our scrum worked well, we took away their base. So with one small change, if they do something different, they might get into space.
“So you’ve got to think ahead and think what they might do. They might come and just keep the ball in the scrum again. I’ve no idea what they’re going to bring but we’ll prepare as well as we can.
“I wasn’t involved in last season’s game [in Castres]. Obviously the lads said that one, the conditions, and two, the crowd, and then obviously three, the way they play, they are very passionate at home.
“We also have to give them credit, I thought they were pretty patient at Thomond on Sunday as well. It was a really fiercely contested game up to the last minute, I think it was the 82nd minute [they scored their try].
“We expect another big battle. We expected one last weekend and we got it and I think we fronted up well to that. Like I said, they’re a quality side.”