'I finished my final school exams two weeks before I flew over here'

Five years after moving to Munster from South Africa, Keynan Knox is keen to take his chances.

Keynan Knox joined Munster back in 2017.
Keynan Knox joined Munster back in 2017.
Image: Ashley Crowden/INPHO

Updated Oct 6th 2022, 12:14 PM

PRO RUGBY WAS the dream as he came through Michaelhouse boarding school in the KwaZulu-Natal province of South Africa, but Keynan Knox never imagined back then that his chance would come in Ireland.

Michaelhouse had produced a few Springboks in the past, so the big tighthead prop would have been dreaming of wearing the green and gold.

But Munster had strong South African connections in 2017 when Knox’s opportunity arose. Johann van Graan had come in as boss to replace Rassie Erasmus and the Irish province were happy to look to the Rainbow Nation for a couple of academy players.

Knox joined in December 2017 along with centre Matt More, who didn’t last too long in Limerick and returned home to South Africa, where he has been playing for the Lions more recently.

Knox stuck it out and nearly five years on, he’s as good as a Munster local. He and his new dog, Ragnor, live in the countryside near the small town of Newport, about a 20-minute drive from Limerick city.

23-year-old Knox is Irish-qualified now and feels very much at home where he is.

“At the time, it was a big move,” he says of that initial journey as an 18-year-old. “I had just finished my final exams two weeks before I flew over here. I got stuck straight into the middle of the season with the academy set-up and the new environment.

“It was a bit of a daunting thing at first but I always knew I wanted to test myself and take my rugby seriously, so when the opportunity arose, I thought it was the best path for me to come over here and test myself with such a big club.”

keynan-knox 23-year-old Knox has started two games so far this season. Source: Evan Treacy/INPHO

Knox says he enjoys Irish culture, the Munster set-up, the training, the rugby, all of it. 

But there have undoubtedly been some tough times as a young man a long way from home. 

“There’s always challenges with being away from family and friends,” says Knox. “I keep in contact with them fairly regularly but during the pandemic, there was about a two-year period where I didn’t get back to see any family or friends.

“Of course, that’s challenging but when I first came over here, I knew that if I was going to make this work, I was going to have to fully dive into it and embrace everything around me.

“I got to know some really cool people, I have some great friends and friends’ families that I would be close to here who have really made it a lot easier. I was very much accepted here and that does make it easier.”

Knox has had to be patient in Munster. This season has been good so far, with two starts in Munster’s opening three games. That actually equals his previous high for starts in one season.

With the experienced Stephen Archer and John Ryan having been ahead of him in the tighthead pecking order, Knox often found himself on the outside of the matchday squad in the past.

“The biggest thing I learned in terms of having to adapt to that is patience and being able to transfer that energy into something constructive and just basically trying to get better all the time,” says Knox.

Rugby Analysis

Get Murray Kinsella's exclusive analysis on the URC interpros and Champions Cup clashes this December

Become a Member

keynan-knox Knox has had to be patient in Munster. Source: Ben Brady/INPHO

“So when I wasn’t getting selected I had extra room to do some extra training sessions. I could force my energy into trying to get better and basically, ultimately if I’m not getting selected there’s got to be some opinion or reason why I’m not getting selected so it’s up to me to change that.

“So when I do get my chances, take them with both hands and make sure that doesn’t happen again that I don’t get selected.”

With Ryan having been let go at the end of last season to join Wasps, Knox has seen chances come his way. 

He has done well in his two starts and one sub appearance so far this season, scoring a close-range try against Zebre last weekend. Tomorrow’s clash with Connacht in Galway is set to be another chance to impress.

“There’s definitely a huge opportunity and I definitely saw that coming into the season,” he says.

“I guess what I needed to tell myself is that nothing needs to change from my perspective, I’ve been trying to get to that level and play as much as possible over the last few seasons as well, and have put in all the work.

“All of a sudden I have the opportunity in front of me, and it’s up to me to try and take it and stake my claim on the jersey.”

Get instant updates on your province on The42 app. With Laya Healthcare, official health and wellbeing partner to Leinster, Munster and Connacht Rugby.

About the author:

Murray Kinsella

Read next:


This is YOUR comments community. Stay civil, stay constructive, stay on topic. Please familiarise yourself with our comments policy here before taking part.
write a comment

    Leave a commentcancel