The Munster squad arrived into 25°C heat in South Africa at the start of a two-match tour which will also double up as preparation for their Champions Cup semi-final showdown with Racing 92 in Bordeaux.
Munster added two players for the trip to South Africa bringing their squad up to 30 with the addition of back three player Stephen Fitzgerald and scrum-half Jack Stafford. They brought the entire 23-man squad who saw off Toulon 20-19 in such dramatic fashion at the weekend to South Africa, with Brian Scott, Dave O’Callaghan, Conor Oliver, Dan Goggin and academy player Calvin Nash added to the travelling party.
Munster travelled to South Africa in two groups, both going via Dubai and arriving into warm sunshine in Cape Town yesterday. The squad will get their first taste of playing in this weather when they train at the City Park rugby grounds this morning.
It’s coming to the end of summer in Cape Town and locals are hoping that rain will not be far away after suffering several months of drought which forced water rationing in Cape Town.
The Munster squad will depart by bus tomorrow for the five-hour trek to CJ Stander’s hometown George where they will play the Southern Kings on Saturday evening.
They will travel back by road to Cape Town on Sunday and base themselves there until Thursday when they will depart to Bloemfontein to take on the Cheetahs on Friday week for a crunch Conference A clash.
But, of course, while Munster will bid to make their first ever trip to South Africa a winning one — they are the last of the Irish provinces to come out here this season — it will be hard to get away from the preparations for the Racing 92 clash, with an update on Simon Zebo’s injury, along with others, expected today.
Munster’s most experienced player Billy Holland said that the tour was an excellent opportunity to focus ahead of the business end of the season.
“It is really exciting. This squad hasn’t gone on many tours in the last few seasons for many reasons. You get to know fellas better on tour, you build even better relationships and you get to know lads better on tour.
“It’s a very unique part of the world and to be heading to CJ’s hometown later in the week is something to really look forward to. But we mustn’t lose sight of the fact we have two important PRO14 matches, first against the Southern Kings and then against the Cheetahs.”
Some of the squad have played in South Africa before and for Holland this is his first time back in the country since featuring for the Irish U19 side almost 15 years ago.
“I played in U19 World Cup in Durban in 2004 and I haven’t been back to South Africa since so I’m looking forward to the next couple of weeks,” added the 32-year old.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved