Munster defence coach JP Ferreira admits he was surprised to see Jean Kleyn make the Ireland squad for the Rugby World Cup but says the South African-born lock is being rewarded for his hard work with the province.
Kleyn’s selection ahead of Devin Toner in Ireland’s World Cup squad has understandably been a major talking point in the Munster camp.
“It’s what Joe (Schmidt) and the coaching staff saw in JK,” Ferreira said yesterday.
“Certainly, from my point of view and Munster’s point of view, it’s brilliant that he’s in there. Am I happy for him? Yes I am. Did I expect it? Probably not. It’s a reward for all the work he has put in over the last three years since he’s been here and that Joe took notice of him.
“We always hoped we wouldn’t have 12 players in the squad for Munster’s sake and what’s coming this season but the last World Cup, if I’m not mistaken, we had five players.
Felix Jones’ departure from Munster and subsequent arrival at the Springboks has understandably captured Ferreira’s attention.
“I think, for Jonesie, it is a great opportunity,” he insisted.
“You’re on a world stage, so to be involved in something that big is fantastic – he’ll bring his knowledge to South Africa. By the sounds of things, he’s got stuck in already and I know the lads will welcome him with open arms.”
Asked about the likely outcome of an Ireland-South Africa World Cup quarter-final, Ferreira said he would be “watching with great interest and see what I can learn from it but I’m not going either side, I’ll just be in the middle.”
Given that Saracens and Racing 92 are included in their European Champions Cup group and Leinster are lying in-wait in the Guinness Pro14, Ferreira faces an extremely challenging season. After all, that type of opposition can inflict great pain on teams handed the slightest scoring opportunities.
The 39 year-old South African landed in this country at Christmas 2017 as a replacement for Jacques Nienaber who returned home along with head coach Rassie Erasmus to spearhead the Springboks’ challenge for the up-coming Rugby World Cup.
Ferreira was well-known to Erasmus’s replacement Johan van Graan from the time they spent together at the University of Pretoria.
A knee injury ended his playing career in 2007 before he picked up the arts of coaching at the Lions before being appointed defence coach in 2012 by coach Johan Ackerman. Van Graan then lured him to Munster midway through the 2019 European season.
“He is a great coach who has been very successful at Super Rugby level with an excellent defence record,” said van Graan, at the time. “I believe he will fit in here excellently at Munster.”
It appears that van Graan has been very much on the money with Munster boasting the best defensive record in the Pro14 and European Cup in 2018/19. But the job certainly isn’t getting any easier with so many massive challenges awaiting once the 2019/20 season gets seriously underway in November.
“With so much detail to cover, I think the longer than usual pre-season has worked in pretty nicely and we are happy at where we are at the moment,” said Ferreira.
“With the Irish players away, we have more time with the academy lads and this exposes them to a higher level.
While Friday night friendlies at Musgrave Park against London Irish (even if their head coach is Corkman Declan Kidney) and next week’s dry run against Connacht in Galway are unlikely to arouse too much enthusiasm among the fans, the Munster coaching team regards the games as very useful preparation for what lies ahead.
“They are also of value to the players themselves, they can see whether they’re ready or not,” reasoned Ferreira.
“We have done a lot of work with the young lads to get them up to par and I’m keen to see where they are really at and make the step up to the next level. We will be looking for leadership qualities in these games, 100%.”