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'We believe we're on our way to greater things. We believe in Munster Rugby'

The southern province believe they have improved since their last semi-final defeat to Saracens.

IN THE END, it was defeat for Munster on a 16-point margin. 

Exactly the same scoreboard gap as when the southern province lost to Saracens at the semi-final stages of the Heineken Champions Cup two years ago.

Saturday’s defeat in Coventry even unfolded in a similar manner to the loss in Dublin in 2017, with Munster trailing by three points at half-time before Saracens pulled clear in the second 40 minutes.

Peter O’Mahony dejected Munster fell in the final four once again. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

But Munster are firmly of the conviction that they have made genuine progress in the two years since that defeat under Rassie Erasmus.

Head coach Johann van Graan is still in his first full season in charge of the province and has “a lot of positivity” about Munster moving forward.

The South African handled the disappointment of defeat maturely in his post-match media dealings at the Ricoh Arena.

He could have justifiably complained about some tough refereeing decisions going against Munster but side-stepped the issue when essentially invited to do so. 

He praised Saracens thoroughly and while acknowledging that the injured Joey Carbery and Keith Earls “are two of our world-class players that didn’t play today,” he insisted their absence was not an excuse for losing.

Van Graan stressed that he is in this for the long haul and he’s convinced that Munster are moving in the right direction.

“It’s step by step,” said the former Springboks assistant coach. “Saracens didn’t get to where they are in one season. We’ll just keep moving forward.

“I was lucky enough to get offered the job through to 2022 and hopefully beyond, and we believe that we are on our way to greater things. That is certainly why I’m here and that’s why all the players recommitted to this club. We believe in Munster Rugby.

Conor Murray dejected after the game The southern province are convinced they're getting better. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

“Everybody has bought into that and we’ll revisit this game at the end of the season. We’ll hopefully get a positive result in the Pro14 and then take the next step. That’s the beauty of sport, there is always a new season and I’m a guy that believes that the best is yet to come.”

Van Graan certainly won’t be burying his head in the sand and believing that Munster don’t need to get better.

Their ambitions are to win silverware every year and the head coach and his staff – the futures of Jerry Flannery and Felix Jones have yet to be confirmed – will strive to push Munster forward.

“I believe we do need to improve,” said van Graan. “If we are just going to say, ‘This is good enough,’ then we are not in the right job.

“We do need to improve, we do need to evolve our plan but evolving our plan doesn’t just mean to attack.

“We literally didn’t have the ball in the first-half, not because we didn’t want to but because they kept bombing aerial bomb after aerial bomb at us. If you play, with their mass and their width they force turnovers.

“Once you kick it away it is pretty difficult to defend.

“We have to keep evolving in all areas of the game and we won’t leave any stone unturned. We’ve just got to look forward.” 

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About the author:

Murray Kinsella

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