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‘Munster fans can be really excited by the fact he will make a massive difference’

Johann van Graan has praised the province’s new signing, Malakai Fekitoa.

Fekitoa with Jonathan Joseph of the Lions
Fekitoa with Jonathan Joseph of the Lions
Image: Photosport/Joe Allison/INPHO

Updated Feb 21st 2022, 8:35 AM

IT IS AN easy enough sell. An All Black, a World Cup winner, a superstar to come into your team just as another one leaves it.

There is a sense that Malakai Fekitoa could be the missing jigsaw piece in Munster. He joins next season, with Damien De Allende expected to leave.

One person who certainly is leaving is Johann van Graan, their head coach, who is joining Bath. De Allende may well join him at the Rec; both men will certainly be intrigued to see how Fekitoa gets on in his absence.

“I was fortunate enough to coach against him when I was (an assistant coach) with South Africa,” said van Graan. “He can play 12 or 13, he’s calm, he’s decisive, he’s experienced and he’s part of a winning environment.

“I think he will fit in really well with Munster because he is soft spoken, he loves to make a difference and I believe Munster fans can be really excited by the fact that he will make a massive difference with Munster Rugby.”

There were other players able to get those fans off their seats on Friday. Simon Zebo got a hat-trick despite getting precious little possession in the game; Dave Kilcoyne marked his 200th cap with a decisive goal-line tackle which stalled the momentum Edinburgh had been building; Craig Casey had his best game since the opening night of the season; Gavin Coombes also produced his best display in a while.

gavin-coombes-and-simon-zebo-congratulate-dave-kilcoyne-on-winning-a-turnover Coombes, Zebo and Kilcoyne celebrate. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

“Guys love to come back into this environment (from Ireland camp) and play for Munster because they know that when they come back, they are greeted with open arms; all three delivered special performances on Friday.

“I thought Gavin carried really well, Craig managed the game well, that one-handed take there in the first-half on the touchline, he had a grubber after that, he just a special player, and then for Dave to play 200 games for your club is massive.

“Look, the attitude is brilliant and the connection between the national team and the four provinces are really well managed by Faz (Andy Farrell).

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“The team is a good place and it’s great to have players up there. It’s also great to welcome them back into this environment.”

Ultimately they were needed. Edinburgh – like Glasgow and Treviso – are a much better team than they were last year. They trailed right through Friday’s game but never gave up on the idea of winning it. Munster refused to give them a chance, though.

“I thought the first 20 minutes was probably the best 20 minutes as a start to a game the whole season,” said van Graan.

“We really focused on a fast start tonight because we came up against class opposition.

“When you play the top of the league teams, when it gets to a seven point game at the back end, you have got to finish it well and I thought we did with our maul scoring that try. I’m really happy with the result.”

About the author:

Garry Doyle

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