RG Snyman has not come to Munster to turn his back on the Springboks, but while he will be lost to the province during Test windows, the World Cup winner is keen to spend as much time as he can in the company of its head coach.
Speaking to the media yesterday for the first time since joining Munster from Honda Heat in Japan, the giant South African lock confirmed that if the Southern Hemisphere’s Rugby Championship goes ahead as is proposed by World Rugby between November 7 and December 12 — beyond the Northern Hemisphere Test window — then he would be a willing participant.
What’s more, it will be with the permission of his new employers.
“Me, personally, I will play,” the 25-year-old said on a Munster Rugby video call.
“There is still a lot going on to see if the games [Rugby Championship] will go ahead,” he said, but, he continued: “Yes. I am lucky Munster are allowing me to play for the Springboks.”
There was at least the comfort for Munster supporters that Snyman has joined the province to make himself a better player, and that he sees head coach and former Springbok assistant Johann van Graan as the best man for the job of transforming him into a world-class star.
“First of all, it’s a very tradition-rich club, and mainly the biggest reason I came here was because of coach Johann. I’ve worked with him in the past and I know the quality of coach he is. That’s why I thought it was the best decision to come to Munster.”
The lock, who stands 6’ 9.5” and weighs 18st 4lbs, was signed alongside fellow World Cup-winning centre Damian de Allende to help Munster make the leap from perennial semi- finalists into trophy winners — but Snyman, preparing for his Munster debut against Leinster on August 22 when the Guinness PRO14 season restarts at Aviva Stadium, views it as a two-way street. He views the coach he first met as a schoolboy player in their mutual hometown of Pretoria as the man to take him to a higher level standing in the world game.
“The first time I met Johann van Graan was in high school, which is quite a while back. I haven’t really worked under him that much, even though I’ve known him for a long time.
“I do know he is a quality coach and speaking to anyone who has worked with him, I have only heard positive things. That’s what I am looking forward to, and also expanding my game within the detail that he brings. I think I’m in the best place for him to bring me to a world-class level.”
Snyman agrees with van Graan’s assessment that he still has much to develop in his game before he can be considered the finished article.
“I really enjoyed my time in Japan, but just from my career perspective, I thought it was a better move for me to come over to Munster under coach Johann to keep moving forward and to keep bettering myself.
“I actually agree with him, and that’s the biggest reason why I came here. We’re on the same page, but I think I still need some work done on the smaller details from a technical side, so working under him is great for that because he’s very technical and his off-field work is very detailed.”
A valued member of the Boks’ self-titled ‘Bomb Squad’ of impact subs (with a tattoo on his hip to prove it) that helped Rassie Erasmus deliver the Webb Ellis Cup in Japan last autumn, Snyman will be a mainstay in Munster’s starting line-up. The transition will not faze him, he said.
“That’s the thing about Rassie — we all knew where we stood when coming off the bench. We still had a job to do closing out the game. Most of the time you get about 25, 30 minutes to play. In a starting role, it won’t really change for me. I’ve been in a starting role for the Bulls and in a couple of Tests. It won’t change anything for me.”
Snyman said that the biggest challenge he now faces is adapting to the increased physical challenge of Northern Hemisphere rugby — but the giant second-row relishes contact and has been impressed by his new team-mates’ similar readiness to front up.
“I must say, from the start of training, the guys’ willingness to work hard here is exceptional. I think that and from what I’ve heard, that’s always been the changing point for Munster, is the willingness to work hard.
“I’m very much looking forward to that first game against Leinster ... We haven’t really done a lot (of homework on Leinster) yet, but I think they are obviously a physical side and a good set-piece side.
“I think our plan will probably be to just take them on head-first, from the forwards especially.”