Victor Matfield sheds light on Johann van Graan frustrations

The two are close friends since Munster coach’s time as assistant with the Boks

The 127-times capped, World Cup winning Springboks lock Victor Matfield has shed further light on the frustrations which led Johann van Graan to rescind his decision to stay with Munster for two more seasons and instead decamp to Bath.

Speaking in his guise as a pundit for the South African television channel SuperSport, Matfield said he had spoken with van Graan - the two are close friends since the latter’s time as an assistant coach with the Boks.

“I spoke to Johann van Graan and, for him, it’s very difficult,” Matfield said while working as a studio pundit on the Munster-Ulster game last weekend.

“For him, his pack is very important; his tight five. So, he brought in RG Snyman, he brought in (Jason) Jenkins - both of them out. So, there’s two big South African guys that he thought were going to give him that power game, especially the way he wants to play, not there.


“So, he’s not getting that go-forward from that tight five that he was thinking he would get. So (it is) very difficult at the moment.”

Regarding Van Graan's move to Bath next summer, Matfield said: "He's excited. Look, he feels bad because he really enjoyed his time at Munster. He loves the people there. But he said it's very difficult, he said all the great players go to Leinster. So, he has to compete (with them), he comes second in every competition but he doesn't win trophies. Leinster have got this amazing team. And again, financially, he's trying to (sign) the guys from outside to make a difference.

“The local players, most of them, go to Leinster,” Matfield added in reference to Leinster’s unrivalled schools/club pathway. “So, it’s very hard.”


Although van Graan repeated this week that he had already given the reasons for his change of mind after initially signing a two-year extension with Munster, in truth he hasn’t shed any light on his reasons for doing so.

While the re-signing of RG Snyman dispels the theory that those negotiations had been an issue, Matfield's ensuing comments did give an inkling as to van Graan's apparent frustrations with a myriad of vested interests at Munster (the chief executive, Ian Flanagan, the professional game board, the group of influential financial backers known as the '1014' group), not to mention the strong influence of IRFU high performance director David Nucifora.

“Going to Bath he will get opportunities to build a squad, and that’s what he likes. He wants to build a squad, get people in, get something for four, five, six years and build something amazing in Bath.”

Regarding van Graan’s time in Ireland, Matfield said he “gets a lot from how Ireland run the whole system, as well. He’s almost under the director of Irish rugby (David Nucifora). He (Nucifora) actually controls everything, understand.

“He controls everything. And as well, he’s got some great coaches with him. He’s got a great, experienced English coach (Graham Rowntree), he’s got (Stephen) Larkham - different style. So, yeah, he’s grown a lot and I think he’s one of the great young coaches in South Africa that will come back at some stage and hopefully coach the Springboks.”

Gerry Thornley

Gerry Thornley

Gerry Thornley is Rugby Correspondent of The Irish Times