Munster’s South African influence looks like deepening still further with reports that World Cup winners — centre Damian de Allende and lock RG Snyman — are to join the province on a two-year contract as of next season.
The business would come on the back of a busy summer in which high-profile coaches, the Australian legend Stephen Larkham and former England prop Graham Rowntree, were added to the coaching staff.
The 27-year-old De Allende was a major player for the South African side who claimed the Webb Ellis trophy under the guidance of, among others, three former Munster coaches — Rassie Erasmus, Jacques Nienaber, and Felix Jones — in Japan just last weekend.
His ball-carrying was a constant threat, even with the team’s reliance on Faf de Klerk’s box-kicks, and his obvious heft was just as notable in defence. A nuisance at the ruck, he dovetailed brilliantly with his centre partner Lukhanyo Am in Japan, and he is also a skilled passer and kicker of the ball.
The high point of his tournament was undoubtedly the barnstorming performance against the hosts in the quarter-final when he made a match-high 17 tackles, claimed three turnovers and was unlucky to have a try disallowed.
It will be fascinating to see how Munster utilise him and if he can showcase his full box of tricks.
“Sometimes it’s quite tough to make a 50-50 pass, because you know that if that pass doesn’t stick, you will probably concede seven, five or three points,” he said during the World Cup. “You want to take a few risks now and then, if you really have to.
If the opportunity is there and you feel like you can do it, then do it. But I would say if you are in two minds and there’s a bit of doubt, then rather tuck it and try to play one or more phases and see if you can break the defence and get over the advantage line.
A Stormers player since 2013, it had already been signposted that he would play out the rest of this season with Panasonic Wild Knights in Japan under the guidance of Kiwi coach Robbie Deans, but Munster will be more of a home-from-home given the personnel already based in Limerick.
Head coach Johann van Graan and his defensive lieutenant JP Ferreira are obvious selling points to any player from that neck of the woods and the squad contains others besides with familiar accents in the forms of CJ Stander, Jean Kleyn, Chris Cloete, and Arno Botha.
Keynan Knox, an academy player with three senior appearances to his credit this season, is another link — but De Allende’s capture, given his currency right now, his age profile and a clean bill of health stretching back two years and more, must rank up there as one of the most notable by any of the provinces in recent times.
It actually brings to mind the coup that was Munster’s signing of Jean de Villiers back in 2009. The pair were contenders for the same No.12 shirt with both the Stormers and the Springboks until the elder man, who was a willing teacher to the younger contender, retired four years ago.
If De Allende is the big ‘name’ of the two, then that shouldn’t overshadow the significance of Snyman’s mooted signing. A member of the Boks’ ‘Bomb Squad’ at the World Cup, he too will spend the next few months playing club rugby in Japan, in his case for Honda Heat.
Only 24, Snyman is a monstrous presence in the lineout and, on top of that, a strong and intelligent ball carrier. Man of the Match against Canada in the World Cup, he only made his Test debut in June of 2018, but was regarded from well back as the obvious successor to Victor Matfield with the Bulls and the Boks.
Matfield himself suggested that Snyman had the potential to be an even better all-round lock than New Zealand’s Brodie Retallick after the impressive 80-minute display against the Canadians when he dominated in the air and made 17 tackles. High praise indeed.
His loss on a permanent basis, along with that of de Allende, to the South African club scene will be a significant blow, but hardly surprising given the change of policy adopted by Erasmus who made it possible for foreign-based players such as Sale Sharks’ de Klerk to again wear the green and gold.
Meanwhile, life goes on for those Munster players whose World Cups were shortened by Ireland’s difficulties in Japan. All 12 of those who featured in Joe Schmidt’s tournament squad returned to the province’s High Performance base yesterday and the majority are set to feature in this Saturday’s interpro derby against Ulster in Thomond Park.
Joey Carbery will continue his rehab on the ankle injury which he suffered prior to the World Cup.