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Springbok signings are complete game-changers for van Graan's Munster

RG Snyman and Damian de Allende are likely to become fan favourites at Thomond Park.
Jan 31st 2020, 4:56 PM 19,893 66

RG SNYMAN ONLY turned 25 on Wednesday. Damian de Allende celebrated his 28th birthday in November, just three weeks after helping the Springboks to World Cup glory.

The point here isn’t for Munster to note down when they need to roll out the cakes next season, but rather to underline that these aren’t over-the-hill signings from abroad. These aren’t two formerly world-class players looking for a handy salary – though they will be getting well paid.

While they will surely have an influence on younger team-mates, Snyman and de Allende aren’t coming to Munster simply to be ‘mentors’.

new-zealand-v-south-africa-pool-b-2019-rugby-world-cup-international-stadium-yokohama Snyman is a superb second row. Source: Adam Davy

Instead, they’re being signed to push Munster onto the next level, turning them into genuine Pro14 and Champions Cup contenders. While the province can still become the former this season, the arrivals of the World Cup-winning pair this summer promises to make Munster a team that no one wants to play against.

De Allende and Snyman will be coming to Limerick in their prime, barring any major injuries over the remainder of the Top League season, which runs until 9 May. 

Two World Cup winners. Two players who would walk into most teams in the world. Two-year contracts. This is a big statement from Munster.

The42 understands that Munster have benefited from generous private investment for both of these deals. It’s far from the first time that has been the case with a rugby player’s contract in Ireland and the province look certain to get real bang for their buck here.

Currently playing for Honda Heat in Japan, Snyman’s performances are at times comically effective. Standing nearly 6ft 10ins tall and weighing close to 120kg, the hulking second row has been impactful with his explosive ball-carrying, as well as his skillful offloading and passing.

At a much higher level, Snyman has already shown his class with the Springboks, as well as with the Bulls in recent years. While the Potchefstroom native wasn’t part of the Boks’ first-choice line-up at the World Cup, he was an integral part of the ‘Bomb Squad’ of six forwards that Rassie Erasmus used to greatly impact games off the bench.

Capped by the Springboks 23 times so far, Snyman has plenty of scope to get even better. Locks aren’t usually x-factor players in terms of offloading and passing but Snyman’s skillset is world-class and he will add another layer to Munster’s attack along with the obvious size, power, and set-piece skills. 

A huge fan of embedding himself into shemozzles too, Snyman promises to be a firm fan favourite at Thomond Park.

england-v-south-africa-2019-rugby-world-cup-final-yokohama-stadium De Allende has more to his game than winning collisions. Source: Ashley Western

De Allende has been curiously underrated by many supporters in South Africa in the recent past, though a World Cup win has convinced most of his merits. The inside centre is an especially effective winner of the gainline. 

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He’s 6ft 3ins tall but has an uncanny ability to get low into his carries, dipping his upper body to get underneath defenders and then use his exceptional power to drive them backwards even as they try to stop him. De Allende has a powerful fend too, meaning his contact skills are superb.

He has been seen as one-dimensional in the past but it’s an unfair perception. The former Stormers midfielder showed again in the World Cup that he has passing skill and an impressive ability to straighten the line, fixing defenders before shifting the ball when there is space on the edge.

A combative defender, 47-times capped de Allende is often dominant in the tackle too. He and Snyman have far more to their games but both are major collision winners. 

In short, Munster have secured two world-class players who will likely transform them into Champions Cup contenders. Players of their quality make a huge difference in the biggest games and, having come up short in so many semi-finals in recent years, Munster needed something extra.

Many will bemoan Munster bringing in non-Irish qualified players but head coach Johann van Graan will be of the view that success matters. Munster haven’t won a trophy since 2011 and these signings genuinely increase their chances of changing that.

The additions of Snyman and de Allende will bring greater outside demand to succeed too. With the coaching team of van Graan, Stephen Larkham, and Graham Rowntree fully bedded-in by the start of next season, Munster’s staff will need to show a return on the investment.

If van Graan has key players like Joey Carbery, Tadhg Beirne, Dave Kilcoyne, Chris Farrell, CJ Stander, Andrew Conway [who is out of contract at the end of the season, as things stand], Conor Murray, and the two new men fit, Munster will possess a superb side capable of competing with the very best.

rg-snyman-celebrates-with-rassie-erasmus-after-the-game Snyman shares a drink with Rassie Erasmus after their World Cup success. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Van Graan has responsibility for Munster’s future too and there is an onus on him and his coaching staff to develop homegrown talent. He can buy himself plenty of credit in that department over the remainder of the current season by bringing fresh faces through, but it will also need to be part of the plan in 2020/21.

The signing of the Irish-qualified Matt Gallagher from Saracens is a continuation of a theme that has seen Mike Haley join the province and Will Addison move to Ulster. The IRFU is keen to hoover up any Irish-qualified talent from abroad and, in Gallagher, Munster will get a good athlete who still has lots of room to get better at the age of 23.

Gallagher – the son of World Cup-winning former All Black, John Gallagher – is Irish-qualified through his Derry-born grandfather and Limerick-born grandmother so could hypothetically go straight into the Ireland squad on arriving into the country. The fullback/wing, who has also agreed to a two-year deal, will likely have to earn his stripes with the southern province first, though.

But Munster boss van Graan must be rubbing his hands together in glee at the prospect of getting Snyman and de Allende on board and into the same team.

They are going to be game-changers for Munster. 

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Murray Kinsella


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