Saturday’s defeat in Cardiff follows losses away to Ulster, Connacht, Leinster, and Glasgow with the only wins on the road at Zebre (November 26) and Ospreys (September 16). So is this a source of concern to van Graan?
“I think the simple answer is that we have got to be better and limit our soft moments,” van Graan said.
“I also saw the away form of Munster last season which was pretty special. They won a few games in the last second. We had one or two opportunities to do it in Cardiff but didn’t capitalise on the chances. We had a lineout five yards out and lost it, created another opportunity and at least Tyler took it for the (bonus) point. We felt good in Europe away but if you want to be number one in your pool, you need to win your away games.”
Having had a few more days to further consider the first half display in Cardiff, van Graan was most disappointed that having narrowed a 19- point deficit to a mere four with most of the second period still to be played that they needed a last-minute penalty by Bleyendaal to rescue a losing bonus point.
“I thought we started the game well and then made a few errors and other errors led to more errors,” he lamented. “And when you concede three tries in a short space of time, you are going to put yourself under pressure. I am glad the team fought back to 19-15 but the disappointing thing to me was to come back to four points and not win it.”
Van Graan was satisfied with Bleyendaal’s return for a 20-minute spell in the second half: “I thought he came through pretty well. We were grateful to him for kicking that penalty at the end. It was great for him to do so, especially for a kicker who hasn’t kicked in a pressure situation for a very long time.”
Since Cardiff, van Graan has said some players took their opportunity to impress and some didn’t. For now, though, the South African is philosophical on the subject.
“As a coach, you sit down firstly as a team and assess what happened,” he mused.
“You can’t change players in and out every week and go and get other players. You work with the players you have and I think that is what trust is built upon, giving guys more opportunities to perform. It is like your kids, if they make a mistake, you put them out there to make the mistake to make them better.
“I am not saying mistakes are acceptable, we need to correct our mistakes, but if guys make a mistake, we take it on board as a team, Felix (Jones), Jerry (Flannery), and JP (Ferreira) work very well one on one with them.
“The beautiful thing about rugby is that there will always be mistakes... it is how you come back from those.”
Many people believe that Munster should be paying a lot more attention to the Ulster Bank All-Ireland League.
“I am still very new,” van Graan pointed out.
“After maybe six months, I will give a broader view. I have seen some very good performances by certain players and if guys from club rugby stand out, then I would like to have a look at them.
“The league is very competitive, people still want to play club rugby and it seems people still want to support club rugby, so I think that is the bloodline of rugby.
“If there is no club rugby, no schools rugby, then at a professional level where are you going to get players, where are you going to get supporters?