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Johann van Graan: 'It is great to have that X-Factor in your team'

Munster coach praised Simon Zebo’s contribution after the winger scored a hat-trick last night.

Zebo celebrates his hat-trick try.
Zebo celebrates his hat-trick try.
Image: Ben Brady/INPHO

JOHANN VAN GRAAN described Simon Zebo as a ‘special player’ in the aftermath of the Ireland international’s hat-trick against Edinburgh last night.

The winger, who was starved of possession for much of the game, converted the only chances that came his way, showing his poacher’s instinct to time his runs perfectly and appear on the end of passes. The added benefit is the hat-trick helped Munster secure a bonus point, move up to third in the URC and stay on track for the long-term goal of having home advantage in the play-offs.

“He is a special player; he finishes the opportunities he gets,” said van Graan of Zebo. “He just takes those chances that come his way. He finished really well tonight.

“That is why he is the X-Factor in your team because he is able to ensure the team gets the bonus point.

“It is great to have Zeebs come back into the team.”

simon-zebo-celebrates-scoring-their-third-try-with-craig-casey Craig Casey congratulates Zebo on his try. Source: Ben Brady/INPHO

Injuries, Covid, a red card and a squad rotation policy early in the season explain why it has been a stop-start campaign for Zebo thus far. Last night, however, provided evidence of what can be achieved when he gets a consistent run of games.

Consistency is something van Graan is striving for across the board. They were poor last week in Glasgow but they produced some really good passages of play here. That said, they also drifted into sleep mode for chunks of the game even if one can argue that the 14-point margin at the end wasn’t right.

“This was a really important game for us this week, the fact we were fifth and Edinburgh were fourth coming into the game meant we knew it was pretty important. The fact we won the game by five points to zero is very important to us and hopefully we can deliver in the coming games as well.

“In the last few years we have learned that if you want to get to the final you have to get a home semi -final so that is one of our big picture terms but the focus is very much week on week.”

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It has to be. With investment poured into Glasgow and Edinburgh in the close-season, this is a much better league this year compared to last. Ospreys, Cardiff, Benetton have also upped their game while the four South African provinces will surely climb the table once they start bashing up European visitors south of the equator.

“Everyone has still to go down there and it is going to be a massive challenge for the teams from the northern hemisphere to learn what it takes to play at Loftus and Ellis Park and Cape Town Stadium and in Durban. That is a massive challenge.

“There are a lot of quality sides in this tournament.”

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Garry Doyle

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