Van Graan envisages no summer reinforcements for Munster

Munster's Peter O'Mahony, Head Coach Johann van Graan and Jack O'Donoghue during the post match press conference. Photo: INPHO/Billy Stickland.
Munster's Peter O'Mahony, Head Coach Johann van Graan and Jack O'Donoghue during the post match press conference. Photo: INPHO/Billy Stickland.

Johann van Graan does not see Munster signing new players for next season but insists that keeping the existing squad together for the long haul will reap rewards.

The Munster head coach, who saw his side outclassed by Saracens in Saturday’s Heineken Champions Cup semi-final in Coventry, followed the likes of Ireland half-back stars Conor Murray and Joey Carbery who have signed new contracts this season, by last week committing his future to the southern province until 2022.

The South African believes that is a statement of intent in Munster’s ambition to become European champions again, despite the current squad’s failure at the semi-final stage in the last three seasons. 

The province has so far announced just one new signing for next season, scrum-half Nick McCarthy from Leinster, and in the wake of Saturday’s 32-16 defeat at the Ricoh Arena, van Graan said: “At this stage, it is this group again this season.

“Obviously, with the World Cup coming, you might get some short-term solutions if there are injuries and a lot of guys at the World Cup. But, we as a group have said we’re going to stick together.

“That’s why all of our big players re-signed. We believe in the plan. It’s so important to get the message across, we want to win Europe. We want to win the PRO14. We’ve just got to do it step by step.

Last season there were one or two things we could have done better but today we were beaten by the better team.

The Munster boss is coming to the end of what is his first full season in charge, having left his role as a Springboks assistant coach to take over from director of rugby Rassie Erasmus midway through last season in November 2017. 

He has overseen some gameplan improvement and greater strength in depth, enabled by the signings of players such as Carbery, Tadhg Beirne, and Alby Mathewson while none of his frontline stars are likely to leave this summer. Yet he will demand further development this summer heading into next season, even if he is unable to splash big money importing more new blood.

“I believe we do need to improve. If we are just going to say ‘this is good enough’, then we are not in the right job.

“We do need to improve, we do need to evolve our plan but evolving our plan doesn’t just mean to attack.

“We literally didn’t have the ball in the first half, not because we didn’t want to but because (Saracens) kept bombing aerial bomb after aerial bomb at us.

“If you play with their mass and their width, they force turnovers. Once you kick it away it is pretty difficult to defend. We have to keep evolving in all areas and we won’t leave any stone unturned. We’ve just got to look forward.”

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