Tuesday 7 February 2023 Dublin: 10°C
Laszlo Geczo/INPHO Munster celebrate at Páirc Uí Chaoimh.
# The Boss
'You remember these nights, a special moment in a special place'
Munster head coach Graham Rowntree was thrilled with his team’s display against South Africa A.

GRAHAM ROWNTREE STROLLS into the media room with a can of Guinness in hand and no one can argue that it’s not well-earned.

The Munster boss has been through plenty of stress in the opening months of his tenure but tonight was a much-welcome release from those pressures as his team pulled off an excellent 28-14 win against South Africa A on an historic occasion at a sold-out Páirc Uí Chaoimh.

“I’m the only person who drinks Guinness out of a can apparently, it’s a very English thing I’m told,” says Rowntree with a smile.

That smile hasn’t been seen often since the start of the season, with Munster having lost five of their first seven URC games to leave them with an uphill task in that competition. The pressure was off tonight in Cork, of course, but this was a much-improved performance from a team missing lots of the province’s biggest stars against an experienced South African side.

“It’s brilliant, a special night for the club,” says Rowntree.

“And a special night for all those people who worked exceptionally hard to get this game organised. The support was brilliant, although the weather wasn’t the best.

“That is going to give us a shot in the arm moving forward into the next batch of games.”

For the Munster head coach, the most pleasing thing was that his players ticked so many different boxes. A maul try, sweeping attacking play, clever kicking, threats across the pitch, scrum penalties, and some massive maul defence – there was lots to like.

shane-daly-celebrates-scoring-a-try-with-simon-zebo-mike-haley-and-rory-scannell Laszlo Geczo / INPHO Shane Daly was among the Munster tries. Laszlo Geczo / INPHO / INPHO

“The balance to our game,” says Rowntree when asked what stood out. “The tries that we scored, the composure that we showed, our defence and the discipline, pretty much, was alright. There were still a few issues towards the end of the game we need to tidy up, particularly around the yellow cards and thereafter we had a couple of penalties for being offside under the sticks.

“But I was pleased with how we dealt with the power game, particularly when it was eight on eight.”

Next up for Munster is a URC clash with Connacht in three weekends’ time, then a visit to Edinburgh before the Champions Cup kicks off with a home tie against Toulouse. 

Rowntree knows his team must use this night to push onto better things in those competitions. 

“It has to be a springboard and give us confidence. Because that was a proper game, they’re a good team, a big team. So we have to take confidence from that moving into the next block.”

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Rowntree said earlier this week that he was jealous of his Munster players getting to take to the pitch on such a big occasion and he hasn’t changed his mind now.

“I’m even more jealous,” he says. “I’ll go and drink with them tonight and savour the moment. It’s a special night. As a player you remember these nights, a special moment in a special place.

“I said to them before the game that I was jealous of what was about to happen. They know what I mean now.” 

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