Munster head coach Johann van Graan knows all there is to know about South Africa’s major domestic competition, the Currie Cup. Given that the Cheetahs — one of his side’s two Guinness PRO14 opponents over the next fortnight — were recently crowned champions of the 130-year-old tournament, he is aware of the challenge awaiting his team.
This time 12 months ago, Munster and Leinster felt bulletproof as they approached their respective Champions Cup semi-final deciders against Racing 92 and Scarlets, with both squads densely fortified with players from Ireland’s all-conquering Grand Slam team.
Conor Murray’s reputation as the leading scrum-half in the Northern Hemisphere, if not the world, will mean the Munster star can expect a lot of attention from Racing 92’s forwards in Bordeaux tomorrow but Johann van Graan says his number nine will not be fazed.
It will be Sunday evening before we know for sure which two of the four sides left standing in this season’s Champions Cup got their preparations spot on for the semi-finals, but at this juncture it would be a surprise, notwithstanding they are playing in France, if Munster isn’t one of them.
There was a carnival atmosphere at Outeniqua Park on Saturday and while it seemed for a time that the Southern Kings were going to spoil CJ Stander’s homecoming, Munster’s superiority shone through in the end as they cantered home.