Billy Holland content to let Jean Kleyn take Munster limelight

Billy Holland may be the senior partner in the Munster second row these days but he is perfectly happy to let fellow lock Jean Kleyn steal the limelight as they perform their separate roles, South African style.

Billy Holland content to let Jean Kleyn take Munster limelight

At 24, Kleyn is eight years Holland’s junior and his form following a trouble-free pre-season suggests there is much more to come from the former Stormer than was showcased during an injury-hit first campaign in red. Four tries in the first three games of the Guinness Pro14 so far would be the envy of many a back-three player, never mind a second row and Kleyn’s packmates are taking his fondness for the tryline with a pinch of salt.

“Jean’s trying to take over from (prop) Dave Kilcoyne, I think,” Holland joked. “Anytime we get within a yard of the line he pops up. He’s getting a bit of a slagging over that but he’s a hard man to stop from a yard or two out and he’s been driven over a few times by a few of his team-mates. He’s telling us he’s very appreciative of the help but it’s not stopping him from getting on the ball anyway.”

More seriously, Holland and co. are more than comfortable with Kleyn’s considerable presence in their ranks. At 6ft 10in, the South African puts the Corkman in mind of former Springbok second-row hero Bakkies Botha but far from heaping pressure on the young Munster lock to emulate a legendary figure, Holland is talking about the role he performs in the engine room.

“When a guy comes in like he did last year and you get injured it’s quite difficult. What he’s done while he’s been injured, he’s added a fair bit of bulk and he’s just flying around the pitch at the moment and he does create a lot of damage in mauls and in the breakdown situation.

“I suppose he’s your typical South African four lock, your Bakkies Botha type of character, and it’s something that has really helped us so far this season.

“In South Africa, it’s very big on having your enforcer and your lineout caller. I don’t think every nation is like that but he’s certainly in the Bakkies Botha type of mould. He does certain things and he does them really well. He doesn’t try and be all things to everything. He’s developing his game, you saw him throw a big offload at the weekend but he’s a big man, creates a lot of momentum in attack and defence and he’s a good guy to play with.”

Holland is happy to go along with more demarcated roles and he added: “I think in most countries you’re kind of a bit of both. It’s a real South African thing where you have that thing that probably comes from the Bakkies Botha-Victor Matfield era, where you have just such contrasting players.

“I played with Donnacha Ryan a lot last year and you’d say we’re both kind of similar at certain things and different in others. So I just play the way I’ve always played. I can’t try and become a Bakkies Botha-type player. You’d need to be, what is he, 125 kilos and 6ft 8ins – I can’t change that overnight! There’s nothing you can do about that.

“You know, people spend a lot of time trying to make up for deficits whereas the important thing is to stay good and get even better at what you’re good at. That’s something I focus on a lot.”

Munster head to Glasgow for tomorrow night’s clash with the Warriors, the only other side in the Pro14’s Conference A with three wins from three so far in 2017-18. While Holland predicts another tough contest hot on the heels of last Saturday’s hard-fought 21-16 victory at Ospreys, he believes Munster will have to improve on last weekend’s performance.

“There’s a lot of things for us to work on, we had a lot of individual errors across the board but those things happen and the guys gutsed it out in the second half. You know, I was just asked about Alex Wootton and I suppose now if he plays and doesn’t get four tries (as he did against the Cheetahs) everybody will be disappointed but him tracking back to make that tackle at the end was fantastic. So we’ll take the four points and move on.”

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