Johann Van Graan will be released from his commitments to the Springboks after their forthcoming games against Ireland and France over the next two Saturdays, thereby giving him a two-week build-up to his first game as Munster coach away to Zebre on November 26th.
Van Graan is regarded as a technically astute, very hard working coach with good people skills, as the Sprinboks' head coach Allister Coetzee outlined on Monday.
“He has been massive, and besides his tactical info and coaching ability he is a good person as a human being. He has been doing a good job for the Springboks over the last few years, and it will be a big loss to the Springboks but a massive gain for Munster. He has been working well in our coaching structures, yea.”
Van Graan has been seeking to take on a head coach role for some time, and Coetzee admitted his assistant was unproven in this regarded, but added: “Assistant is a starting point to being a coach, and once you have been a good one that makes it easier to become a good head coach as well.
He added: “His knowledge of the game is second to none. He is a hard worker, and that’s what you need from an assistant coach, and tactically very astute.”
The choice of van Graan, first revealed in The Irish Times, means he will end his six-year association with the Springboks after originally being brought on board by Heyneke Meyer in 2012, He was the only member of their 2015 World Cup coaching ticket to be retained under Allister Coetzee when he then succeeded Meyer. Having cut his teeth with the Bulls under Meyer, during which time they won the Super Rugby title in 2007, 2009 and 2010, van Graan's working title has remained forwards' coach, although he also has a significant input into the Boks' attacking game. Victor Matfield is amongst those who have described van Graan as the best forwards coach he has ever worked with.
In the somewhat typically unpredictable nature of Springboks’ rugby, it remains to be seen how the impending arrival of Rassie Erasmus as the new South African director of rugby will affect Coetzee’s position. The two men have yet to meet, and Coetzee suggested they would not be doing so on this tour.
“Probably next year. At this point in time the focus of the management team and coaching staff is on the Tests. The other stuff will be looked at next year, definitely.”