Johann van Graan: Springboks bringing championship-winning mentality to Munster

Van Graan has backed World Cup-winners Damian de Allende and RG Snyman to have big impacts
Johann van Graan: Springboks bringing championship-winning mentality to Munster
RG Snyman with Munster head coach Johann van Graan. Picture: INPHO

Johann van Graan believes Munster’s new signings are all bringing a winning mentality with them to the province that can help his squad become a championship-winning side.

Munster supporters have been eagerly awaiting the arrival of South Africa’s World Cup-winning Springboks Damian de Allende and RG Snyman, while full-back Matt Gallagher has joined from European champions Saracens, and young prop Roman Salanoa has made the move from PRO14 top-dogs Leinster.

Head coach Van Graan was speaking to the media on Thursday as Munster near the completion of their first block of squad training since returning from the Covid-19 lockdown and he praised the new players for integrating and adapting so well in the strange circumstances of the current public health protocols strictly enforced at the province’s High Performance Centre.

Van Graan also raised the possibility of giant lock Snyman teaming up with a fit-again Tadhg Beirne in the Munster second-row when the PRO14 season resumes against Leinster on August 22-23.

Ireland lock/back-row Beirne has not played since last December when an ankle fracture forced him out of the Champions Cup clash at Saracens.

“Tadhg’s looking incredibly well,” Van Graan said during his video call with reporters. “The fact that he had a leg injury meant he could work a lot on his upper body strength so he’s in phenomenal condition. He’s still working with the rehab group and he will rejoin the squad on July 27.

“He’s got to come through his rugby training but if all goes to plan I envisage he will be available for selection on August 22.”

Of his summer signings, Van Graan backed De Allende and Snyman to have big impacts having adapted so well to their new surroundings in difficult times.

“Damian, RG, Matt, and Roman haven’t actually even met all of the squad because we’ve been in smaller groups. Guys are meeting each other over Zoom and over Microsoft Teams.

“When Damian came in he was in isolation for two weeks. He’s coming in from Japan so you are bringing him food and looking after him. He’s been behind a window and a wall, so a pretty strange start.

“When RG and his wife came, similarly from Japan, they went into their home and there’s a watt bike and some weights waiting for him, and a piece of grass and they just entered a home that’s so new to them.

“Similarly with Roman, he came up the highway from Dublin. He’s staying close to the Shannon river and he asked me, is it okay if he can swim in there. I said: ‘You’re very welcome but absolutely not, it’s too cold.’ But he’s adapted very well.

“Then Matt making the trip across from England. All four have settled in well and I think we’ll only see what they’ll bring from a rugby point of view in the coming weeks.

“Everybody knows the ambition and the dreams we have as a club and I think it’s important to know that if you look at the four individuals, they all come from championship-winning teams and that’s something that we want to become and in our recruitment, it’s very important for me to get more those players in to add to what we have at Munster Rugby.

We stated that we wanted to keep the Munsterness of Munster, but also add to that, and we’ve got two World Cup-winners coming in. They have won a Rugby Championship together with a World Cup. Roman has been part of a very successful Leinster team and Matt’s been part of a very successful Saracens team. So that’s giving us more championship-winning experience.

“That will hopefully come in time but in terms of what they can add right now is adding in small groups and hopefully being fit for that first game because the only thing we’re aiming for is that first game, to literally get back onto the pitch and play a game of rugby.”

The Munster squad will disband for nine days after their training block is completed on Friday before resuming on July 27 for an intensification of preparations for the August 22-23 resumption when all four provinces will be in action behind closed doors at Dublin’s Aviva Stadium.

“We’ll enjoy these nine days away from each other and then I can’t look forward enough to the 27th because it’s the first time that hopefully everybody will be together for full squad training if the guidance stays the same.

“I’m looking forward to the breather but also looking forward to July 27 very much.”

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