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'I certainly rate RG very highly, that’s why I signed him - he’s a massive part of our group'

South African lock RG Snyman returned to Munster colours on Saturday after a year out with injury.

Image: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

IS THIS THE year? After a decade without silverware, a decade when domestic rivals Leinster, Connacht, Ospreys, Cardiff, Glasgow, Scarlets, even Benetton, win one trophy or another, you just have to wonder if Munster’s turn is finally coming around.

They were sharp on Saturday, deservedly winning 42-17 against South Africa’s Sharks. One poster boy, Simon Zebo, marked his return with a couple of tries. Another, RG Snyman, played for the first time in over a year, following a knee injury.

“When we recruited RG we saw something in him that can make a big difference to our team and specifically to our group,” Munster coach, Johann Van Graan, said afterwards.

“When you look at players you don’t look only at what they can do on the pitch but also off the pitch. In my view he’s a phenomenal rugby player and an incredible human being so we missed those two things last season, the fact that we couldn’t have him.

“And the excitement to have him available for this season. I want to stress again that he’s come through such a lot both on and off the pitch that I’m certainly not going to rush him back into the starting team. We’ll take our time and when he’s ready for that I will pick him.

“We only saw glimpses tonight, the poach and the offload, the carries will come, the hits will come, the lineout steals will come.

rg-snyman-celebrates-after-the-game Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

“The one thing I didn’t mention is that kick-off he took, his movement on the floor, so I certainly rate him very highly, that’s why I signed him and he’s a massive, massive part of our group going forward.”

Told he was playing last Monday, Snyman’s memories of a hellish year recovering from a knee injury, faded away.

 “He was very excited. We said that we won’t put him on the pitch if he’s not ready. He’ll get a lot fitter but his knees are good and he came on and made that poach straight away and in that last try, the way that he got that ball away on the touchline, that offload shows what he can do.

“He’s got a long way to go in terms of building up minutes and we’ll look after him carefully but in terms of him being excited to play, inside (the dressing room) he said ‘coach, I got past seven minutes’ which was brilliant.”

It wasn’t the only ‘brilliant’ thing about Saturday. The return of spectators to Thomond Park turned a run-of-the-mill league game into something special. Add in Snyman’s return, Zebo’s comeback, the progression of a crop of youngsters and you can justify a bit of excitement, even if it is desperately early in the season.

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Why so? Because Munster mixed it up on Saturday, Zebo’s two tries coming from moves that started inside his own half, Craig Casey looking to break as well as pass; Joey Carbery seeking to pass as well as kick.

“There were a few new nuances in there in our attack,” Van Graan said. “It was a very good night and we executed some, some we didn’t execute and there were perfect conditions out there. You’ve got to also then look at the fact that a lot of guys had their first game of the season and some new combinations that will take time. But certainly a willingness to play and make the right decision and even that last play is a very good example of some of the things we want to do.”

In Zebo, Munster have a poacher. That’s 62 tries he has for the province now, although Gavin Coombes, 15 tries last season, two more on Saturday, offers a different kind of threat.

“He has been excellent,” Van Graan said about Zebo. “He is definitely coming back a more experienced, more rounded player. And he certainly hasn’t lost his skillset, like you saw. He definitely has what I term X-factor and that came through in the first try.

“Then the ability to work hard when we needed it when the Sharks got a bit of momentum from that try – the kick-off he won back. It’s those small things that have improved. We are very glad that he is back and he’ll play an important role going forward.”

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Garry Doyle

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