Johann van Graan tight-lipped on Munster contract extension talks

Head coach says he is focused on season ahead as he enters final year of contract

Munster head coach Johann van Graan: ‘I’m not going to speculate over the media about my contract. Obviously, I’m in the last season of my contract and full focus is on the season ahead. Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho

Munster head coach Johann van Graan: ‘I’m not going to speculate over the media about my contract. Obviously, I’m in the last season of my contract and full focus is on the season ahead. Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho

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Johann van Graan has declined to shed any light on the strong rumours that he is being offered another new contract extension with Munster. The 41-year-old South African joined the province in November 2017 to fill the void left by Rassie Erasmus’s return to his homeland and after initially signing a contract as head coach until June 2020, in April 2019 van Graan extended his contract for a further two years until the end of this season.

Van Graan joined the province from his role as Springboks forward coach, where he played a key role in developing the forwards and attack for the 2015 Rugby World Cup, when South Africa finished third. In 2009 and 2010, he helped the Bulls win the Super Rugby title, as forwards and attack coach.

“I’m not going to speculate over the media about my contract. Obviously, I’m in the last season of my contract and full focus is on the season ahead. I’m really enjoying my time at Munster, really enjoying the club and am just focused on the week ahead.”

The disappointing thing was losing to Leinster in that final and it will take some doing to get to a final again

Van Graan will embark upon his fourth full season when Munster host the Cell C Sharks at Thomond Park on Saturday (kick-off 7.35pm).

“I’ve been here a few years, an experience that I’ve enjoyed. We have a lot of stability here at Munster, something that we haven’t had for a while. We look back at last season only, each season follows onto a new one and we reviewed that.

Disappointing

“We won 80 per cent of our games, we won 10 out of 12 away games and 13 games at home. The disappointing thing was losing to Leinster in that final and it will take some doing to get to a final again, and we lost to Toulouse, the eventual champions, in the Champions Cup.

“So if we can get to that 80 per cent mark again, which if you look in world sport is a pretty good achievement, I guess the next step for us is to go and win a final. But that’s a long way from our minds.”

Conor Murray and Tadhg Beirne are in their second week of training after their delayed return following Lions duty but won’t feature for a few weeks yet.

Chris Farrell (abdomen), Jason Jenkins (shoulder) and Kevin O’Byrne (leg) are all continuing to rehab, while prop Roman Salanoa is also unavailable this week due to a knee issue.

Encouragingly, as with John Hodnett, the Springboks’ World Cup-winning lock RG Snyman is increasing his training load this week as he nears a return for what will be akin to a new signing after his first campaign was restricted to just seven minutes when suffering a serious knee injury on his debut against Leinster in August last year.

We love to play at Thomond Park and we can’t wait to play in front of our supporters

Saturday’s game against the Sharks marks the return of spectators to Thomond Park for the first time since February 2020, when all season ticket-holders and 10-year ticket-holders will be accommodated in an attendance that will be restricted to 50 per cent capacity, ie 13,500. Tickets for this game, and Munster’s second match a week later against the Stormers at Thomond Park, remain on sale.

Proper match

“We can’t wait to have our fans back for a proper match,” admitted van Graan. “And I believe from whatever capacity we have at the weekend the tickets will go quickly in the next few days. We love to play at Thomond Park and we can’t wait to play in front of our supporters.”

Munster had 13 players among the 50 chosen by Andy Farrell for a one-day camp last weekend, although Simon Zebo was a notable non-inclusion.

“I’m not the national coach so I’ll leave that to Andy. Zeebs is a class player. He’s only just returned to Ireland, he hasn’t played a competitive game, I’m sure he’ll make the Irish selectors aware of him through his performances and if he’s good enough I’m sure that they will look at him.

“But that’s not for me to say. The only thing we can do is give him opportunities at Munster and hopefully he’ll perform the way that he knows and we know that he can, and he can’t wait to play over the coming weeks.”

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