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Dublin: 14 °C Tuesday 20 August, 2019
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Van Graan reaffirms commitment to Munster amid reports of Bulls return

‘I believe in this club and I’m staying at Munster,’ the head coach said.

JOHANN VAN GRAAN has forcefully quashed reports linking him with the vacant head coach role at the Blue Bulls, reaffirming his commitment to Munster with whom he is under contract with until 2020. 

The South African, who took over from Rassie Erasmus as Munster head coach in October 2017, was last week linked with the position at the Super Rugby outfit following John Mitchell’s departure.

Johann van Graan is interviewed before the game Van Graan speaking after Saturday's defeat of Glasgow. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Speaking after Saturday’s Guinness Pro14 victory over Glasgow Warriors, van Graan moved to end speculation suggesting he could return home to rejoin the Bulls having spent eight seasons there as technical advisor and then forwards and attack coach.

“I am not going back to the Bulls,” he stated. “I signed a contract until the end of June 2020 with Munster. I’m loving every single moment of it.

“You’ll always have approaches, there will always be speculation. I’m staying at Munster and I believe in this journey. I believe in our squad and I believe in this club and I’m staying in Munster.”

The Bulls are currently searching for a successor to Mitchell, who was recently appointed to the position of England defence coach under Eddie Jones, with Erasmus — now South Africa coach — a member of the recruitment committee. 

Reports in South Africa also suggested Gloucester head coach Johan Ackermann and Southern Kings boss Deon Davids were on the shortlist alongside van Graan, but Munster supporters will be relieved to hear of the 38-year-old’s intentions.

Following the dramatic last-gasp victory over Glasgow at Thomond Park, as the southern province overturned a 14-point deficit thanks to Rory Scannell’s long-range penalty, van Graan was understandably delighted with the character his players showed.

Victory, their fourth home win of the campaign, saw Munster move into third position in Conference A and end an important five-game block on a positive note after a strong start to their European campaign.

“I was pretty composed after an hour,” he continued. “I knew we had the wind on our backs. This club doesn’t know how to give up, that’s what Munster’s renowned for, we’re never beaten until we get back in the changing room.

“We’d three big wins at home and we knew a close one was going to come, I didn’t believe it was going to be that close, but this game keeps you humble and tonight the luck was on our side.” 

Rory Scannell celebrates his winning penalty with his teammates Munster celebrate their late win. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Next up for Munster is a trip to South Africa to face the Cheetahs in round eight, with van Graan this morning confirming his 27-man travelling squad ahead of Saturday’s clash in Bloemfontein [2.45pm, eir Sport/Premier Sport].

With many of his frontline internationals now on Ireland duty, the Munster head coach included academy players Gavin Coombes, Liam Coombes, Shane Daly and Sean O’Connor in his squad.  

Munster departed Limerick earlier and will base themselves in Johannesburg before travelling to Bloemfontein for the Conference A clash at the Toyota Stadium. 

On the injury front, Andrew Conway missed Saturday’s win over Glasgow through illness but recovered in time to travel with Joe Schmidt’s Ireland to Chicago on Monday, but Sammy Arnold is absent for that trip after suffering concussion at the weekend.

As expected, Peter O’Mahony is one of a number of players excused from duty for the American excursion with the Munster captain putting in another huge shift at the weekend, notably winning the match-winning turnover penalty at the death.

O’Mahony required treatment at various stages of the second half for a shoulder bang, and van Graan provided an update on his fitness afterwards.

“It’s so early, he came into the changing room first with a bit of pain. I don’t think it’s anything very serious,” the head coach added.

“He’s had a big work load on him. All credit to him he’s in the form of his life and he’s brilliant fitness to come through these games. I don’t think it’s serious.”

Munster squad for SA: James Cronin, Jeremy Loughman, Ciaran Parker, John Ryan, Stephen Archer, Kevin O’Byrne, Mike Sherry, Darren O’Shea, Jean Kleyn, Fineen Wycherley, Sean O’Connor, Arno Botha, Chris Cloete, Gavin Coombes, Neil Cronin, Alby Mathewson, Duncan Williams, Tyler Bleyendaal, JJ Hanrahan, Bill Johnston, Ian Keatley, Sammy Arnold, Shane Daly, Rory Scannell, Alex Wootton, Liam Coombes, Mike Haley.

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Ryan Bailey

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