There was good news and bad from the Munster camp today as the province announced Johann van Graan had signed a contract extension to June 2022 before the head coach himself rated Joey Carbery as “highly unlikely” to face Saracens in the Heineken Champions Cup semi-final in 12 days.
Van Graan, 39, was a first-time head coach when he arrived as a replacement for fellow South African Rassie Erasmus in November 2017 having been a Springboks assistant coach. Yet today, after 17 months in the Irish provincial hot seat, van Graan was handed a two-year extension to his initial two-and-a-half-year deal.
The news came three days after Munster secured a Guinness PRO14 play-off place and European qualification for next season after beating Cardiff Blues in Cork and nine days after his side booked a Champions Cup semi-final for the third year in a row, the second on van Graan’s watch with a quarter-final victory at Edinburgh.
“I’m very lucky Munster want me to stay on for another few years,” van Graan said.
“You’ve always got to look at the future and my family and I have settled in very well in Limerick and we’ve enjoyed Munster. I know this is professional sport and my contract was due at the end of next season, when Munster Rugby said they wanted to keep me here and I gave it a lot of thought with my family and delighted to stay.
“The very first day I said this is about Munster, not about me so I’d like to keep it that way and I’m very fortunate to work with incredible players and incredible management staff and everyone working at Munster. The Munster supporters have been very good to me and it’s great to be associated with Munster Rugby.”
Van Graan said he expected Munster to go into the Saracens showdown at the Ricoh Arena in Coventry a week Saturday without their first-choice fly-half with Carbery set to miss out due to a hamstring injury.
The Ireland international lasted just 35 minutes against Edinburgh at Murrayfield having just returned from a nine-week lay-off and though he served as a water carrier during last Friday’s win over Cardiff, the head coach was doubtful he would pass fit to face Sarries.
“Joey at this stage is highly unlikely for the semi-final. There’s still a possibility but no, like we said last week we’ll just take it day by day. At this stage, we’ll see how he is next week.”
Munster look set to rotate their squad for this Friday’s PRO14 trip to Treviso to face Benetton with many of the squad’s Ireland internationals set to be given time off under IRFU player welfare rules, although van Graan insisted Keith Earls’ withdrawal having pulled up during last Friday’s warm-up had been purely “precautionary”.
“He’s such an important player and he was really stiff in the warm-up so we decided to pull him out.”