Springbok coach backs van Graan to hit ground running with Munster

Springbok coach Allister Coetzee is sure that a lack of experience in the role of head coach will not hamper Johann van Graan as he prepares to take over the reins at Munster from Rassie Erasmus, writes Brendan O’Brien of the Irish Examiner.

The South African Rugby Union and Munster have both confirmed that van Graan will continue his current duties with the Boks for the first two November Tests, against Ireland this week and France on November 18, before taking over at the southern province.

Munster face Zebre in the Guinness PRO14 the following Sunday.

Highly rated for his work as an assistant coach with the Bulls and the Boks, van Graan will be taking a step into the unknown in upping sticks to a new country and assuming the top position at a top European club.

“He has been massive and, besides his tactical info and coaching ability, he is a good person as a human being,” said Coetzee whose South African side take on Joe Schmidt’s Ireland at the Aviva Stadium in five days' time.

“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, yeah.”

And that gap on his CV? Not an issue, said Coetzee.

“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 … His knowledge of the game is second to none. He is a hard worker. That’s what you need from an assistant coach, and tactically very astute.”

Coetzee was less keen to discuss the situation regarding Erasmus, who is finally free to start work as South Africa’s Director of Rugby having said his farewells to Munster with the side’s defeat of Dragons in Cork last weekend.

The view in South Africa is that Erasmus’ return doesn’t bode well for Coetzee so it was probably understandable that the current head coach has no plans to link up this week with the man soon to be his boss.

“Probably next year,” he said. “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.”

Coetzee has already had to contend with a lengthy injury list as he makes plans for a busy month in Europe with games against Ireland, France, Italy and Wales but the update on those who have travelled was more promising.

Lock and captain Eben Etzebeth (ankle) and flanker Uzair Casseim (rib) have both taken part in training since the party arrived in Dublin over the weekend and Coetzee confirmed that the pair will be eligible for selection in five days’ time.

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