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Dublin: 7 °C Sunday 20 January, 2019

Munster reset and turn their focus to Racing after a successful South African tour

Johann van Graan’s side returned to Limerick after their two-week tour to begin preparations for Racing.

Ian Keatley celebrates after Friday's win over the Cheetahs.
Ian Keatley celebrates after Friday's win over the Cheetahs.
Image: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

RESETTING WILL BE the order of the day for Munster, as they now shift their focus from the Pro14, to the Champions Cup semi-finals and a mouth-watering showdown with Racing 92 in Bordeaux.

Johann van Graan’s side secured a home playoff in the Pro14 with a hard-fought 19-17 win over the Toyota Cheetahs in Bloemfontein after trailing by 10 at the break.

Earlier in the week the head coach described their second game of a double-header in South Africa as a crucial fixture in their campaign, and in many ways the trip — although involving plenty of travel — has been considered as the ideal preparation for their European showdown.

The round 20 match in the Free State went down to the wire and could easily have gone in favour of the Cheetahs had they not conceded a penalty in the Munster 22 after the full-time hooter had sounded.

Van Graan lauded his team for the composure they displayed in what he also described as a titanic battle.

“We said from day one that coming to Bloemfontein would always be a really tough ask,” he said.

“All credit to the Cheetahs, I thought they started the game pretty well and we went down by quite a few points. I’m very proud of the team for keeping their composure. Coming from the north, and coming from behind in Bloemfontein to grind out a result, and for that the players deserve the credit.

“A lot of respect to the Cheetahs. That was really a titanic battle by two very good teams.”

Securing a possible nine out of 10 points during their tour to South Africa is certainly something for Munster to be proud of, however, there are a lot of work-ons in the coming week for the team heading into the biggest game of their season.

Johann van Graan before the game Johann van Graan. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

The one thing Van Graan and his team will be looking to remedy is their slow start, which saw the visitors trail at half-time against both the Southern Kings and the Cheetahs.

And when the southern province lost to Racing during the pool stages in Paris in January, a slow start was largely to blame.

“In any rugby game you can improve, but we will be targeting a better start,” Van Graan continued. “We went down by quite a few points in both games on tour, and in our previous game against Racing we also went down by 10-0 early in the game.

“I’ll say it every single week, that I would much rather prefer a slow start and a good finish, rather than a good start and slow finish.

“We’re looking for the perfect game every week, we are looking for an 80-minute performance, but at this stage, we will just enjoy this win, get back to Ireland, enjoy the time with our families and reset and restart to zero for massive a Champions Cup game.”

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