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Van Graan brings 'big dreams' to Bath after 'phenomenal' five years with Munster

The former Munster boss has given his first interview since joining the English side.

Johann van Graan (file photo)
Johann van Graan (file photo)
Image: Bryan Keane/INPHO

JOHANN VAN GRAAN has called for Bath to “dream big” in his first interview since joining the English side from Munster.

Van Graan’s decision to leave Munster and join Bath was confirmed last December, but the South African continued as head coach of the province for the second half of the season, with Munster exiting both the Champions Cup and the United Rugby Championship in the quarter-final stages.

He takes over a Bath squad who struggled desperately in the Premiership last season, finishing bottom of the table with just five wins from their 24 league fixtures.

However Van Graan says the club needs to aim high as he looks to bring better days back to one of English rugby’s traditional powerhouses.

“I’m very excited to be here, it’s an incredibly opportunity,” Van Graan told BathRugbyTV.

“If I go back to the past, (I was) very privileged to be part of the Bulls for nine years, a province in South Africa that really embodies the values of the rugby.

The same with Munster, the club that I’ve just been at, a phenomenal five years at Munster and generally when you walk out at Thomond Park and at Musgrave Park, it’s about history and I can say the same about Bath.

“It’s what rugby is about. One of the first clubs in England to win in Europe, a rich tradition in Europe, a rich tradition in the English game and that’s what you want to be part of. You want to be part of clubs who have values and with history. We’ve got an incredible game, this game called rugby, and it’s phenomenal to be part of it.” 

Bath initially appointed Van Graan to the position of head coach, but in May the club confirmed a new rugby structure which sees the 42-year-old become head of rugby, assuming complete responsibility for rugby matters. 

Van Graan and his Bath squad began pre-season training last week ahead of the new Premiership season, which sees them face a testing trip to play Bristol Bears on the opening weekend.

“We started last week and it was important to make sure we get a vision in place,” Van Graan said.

“A vision is pretty important because if you don’t know where you’re going you’re on a road to nowhere. It was important that we start off on that note. In terms of the players, exceptionally welcoming. There’s a real hunger to learn and get better. In terms of the staff, everyone just wants to play their part and add to the team. 

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“In a few weeks time we’ll be going across to Jersey as a group, we’re waiting on a couple of England boys to come back from Australia after their time away, some of the U20 lads and some players (joining) from other clubs are still on their holidays, and in Jersey we’ll be together as a group and can discuss where do we actually want to take this team and this club.

I’ve got a vision of where I believe we can go to, but you need buy-in from everybody. A coach that I respect a lot taught me that you’ve got to dream big dreams because big dreams make a man’s blood stir. That’s what we’re looking for.

“We want to dream big, we know that we’ve got such a long way ahead of ourselves, we’ve got a lot of work to do, but you’ve got to start somewhere and we started last week.”

Van Graan – who will be joined in Bath by former Munster defence coach JP Ferreira and flanker Chris Cloete – added that Bath may yet make further additions to their playing squad ahead of the new campaign. 

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Ciarán Kennedy

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