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Johann van Graan: 'It was a good advert for the URC with two very good teams'

Munster fell to a 29-24 defeat to the Bulls in Pretoria on Saturday.

Image: Steve Haag/INPHO

MUNSTER COACH JOHANN van Graan lauded the character of his team following their 29-24 defeat to the Bulls at Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria on Saturday in the United Rugby Championship.

Munster turned in a much improved second-half performance in the South African capital city, to fall just short against a team that were reduced to 14-man for the last ten minutes to Bismarck du Plessis’ red card.

Discipline in particular hurt Munster in the opening stanza and the Bulls responded with Chris Smith successfully converting four penalties on goal.

johann-van-graan-during-the-warm-up Source: Steve Haag/INPHO

Van Graan, who was practically raided at Loftus Versfeld and went to school across the road at Affies (Afrikaanse Hoër Seunskool) admitted it was somewhat of an emotional return for him personally.

He added that there was also a belief that they had what it took to win the game, but was ultimately left disappointed as they ran out of time against the defending Currie Cup champions.

“We came to Loftus believing that we can win this game”, said Van Graan about the match in his hometown.

“We believed that our squad was good enough to win this game. We didn’t adapt to the referee well enough in the first 20-minutes and it was literally penalty on penalty and that gave them field position and they built a score. At half-time, it was 26-3 and we stuck to our processes.

“We’ve got a massive belief in not only this squad but also at the club that we are never out and with two minutes to go I was disappointed that we didn’t keep the ball to go and win this game.

“It was a good advert for the URC with two very good teams. In terms of our fitness, we back our fitness, but time caught us tonight.”

kurt-lee-arendse Source: Steve Haag/INPHO

Munster do have the very real opportunity to collect points this coming week when they come up against the Lions at Ellis Park which is 55km south of Loftus Versfeld.

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The Lions have experienced a torrid time of late in both the URC and Currie Cup and will be a team desperate for a win. Recently the former PRO14 team, the Cheetahs hammered the Lions 66-14 in wet conditions.

Van Graan downplayed the notion that the Lions are a wounded team and he expects another tough day at the office, come Saturday afternoon on the Highveld.

“I wouldn’t say that the Lions are a wounded team, I would rather say that at Ellis Park they will be a test for any team coming from the northern hemisphere.

“Again, the altitude, the heat and playing at Ellis Park at two o’clock in the afternoon, will just be different for us. We are currently in the Irish winter, so we’ve had a week here now and hopefully we can acclimatise.

“Take nothing away from the Lions, they are a very good rugby side.”

Saturday’s match between the Lions and Munster at Ellis Park will kick-off at 14:00, local time. 

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Morgan Piek

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