Munster are concentrating on their PRO14 clash with the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein on Friday night, although head coach Johann van Graan admits they are doing research on their Champions Cup semi-final opponents in the background.
Van Graan said they will turn their full attention to Racing 92 once they turn for home on Saturday but he is not under-playing the importance of Friday’s encounter with the Cheetahs with home advantage in the quarter-finals of the PRO14 essentially up for grabs.
“We are doing research on Racing in the background. Obviously, it will be the biggest game of the season but we need to show the Cheetahs respect and we are in a big tussle with them for a home quarter-final,” he said.
“Everyone in Ireland knows Racing is the big one but our business is the PRO14 now and that is where most of our focus is this week.”
They look set for a big boost ahead of their Champions Cup semi-final showdown on Sunday week with loosehead prop James Cronin poised to be fit.
The 27-year old went off with a shoulder injury in the early stages of the win over the Southern Kings on Saturday and with Liam O’Connor already out for the season, it would have left Munster thin on the ground for cover for the position.
But Cronin’s injury is not as serious as feared and he could even be back for this Friday’s clash with the Cheetahs, although he may not be risked.
“He got a stinger on his shoulder which went into his neck but, luckily, it was nothing too serious,” said van Graan.
Simon Zebo and Darren Sweetnam, who both missed the 39-22 win over the Southern Kings in George, were also assessed after training yesterday.
Zebo has a hip issue and Sweetnam is troubled by a minor hamstring problem and, like Cronin, a call will be made today on whether they will play on Friday.
Bulls centre Dries Swanepoel, who may be signed on a short-term injury cover deal, has linked up with the squad, but is not training with them. The squad trained in warm sunshine yesterday in Cape Town, having returned by bus on Sunday from George.
That journey took almost seven hours but that was nothing compared to the 55-hour journey Cardiff Blues, who are staying in the same hotel near the Waterfront in Cape Town as Munster, endured on their trip to Bloemfontein last weekend.
The Munster squad will enjoy a rest day today with some of them heading off on safari and others taking in the sights of Cape Town.
More than 200 Munster supporters are enjoying the two-match tour while for the South Africa players in the squad, it is a chance to catch up with family and friends. Van Graan, who is again set to make numerous changes, said Friday’s clash at high altitude in Bloemfontein would be a huge examination for his men as they battle it out with the Cheetahs for home advantage in the quarter-finals.
“If I am not mistaken, they have only lost once at home in the PRO14 and it will be a big test for us,” he added. “There will be a lot of changes again for this weekend. That is why we brought out a big squad so that we could manage guys through these two weeks with the semi-final coming up next week and also to give respect to the Cheetahs that they deserve as they are a quality side.”
Meanwhile, experienced hooker Mike Sherry, who has recovered from injury nightmares in recent seasons, has been rewarded with a one-year contract extension. Prop Jeremy Loughman has also penned a one-year extension, while Garryowen captain and scrum-half Neil Cronin, a brother of Irish hooker Sean, has signed a one-year deal.
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