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'I absolutely want to be here... I see myself as a Munster man'

Johann van Graan has stressed his commitment to Munster until the end of the season.

Image: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

Updated Jan 12th 2022, 12:06 PM

MUNSTER HEAD COACH Johann van Graan has stressed his total commitment to the province for the rest of the season before he joins English club Bath.

The South African’s departure was confirmed last month and the Premiership club have since confirmed that van Graan will take over as their new head coach ahead of the 2022/23 season.

Van Graan had signed a new two-year contract with Munster last summer but invoked the six-month release clause in his IRFU deal to take up Bath’s offer.

Those circumstances have led to questions as to whether van Graan wants to be at Munster any longer, with some suggestions that it would be more beneficial for all parties if he moved on now rather than waiting until the summer to leave.

However, van Graan says he is committed to finishing out his time with Munster over the remainder of the current campaign.

“I absolutely want to be here,” said van Graan yesterday. “I’ve committed until the 30th of June with this club. I’ve communicated that to all the right channels as I’ve stated in the middle of December.

“From my point of view, again I want to reiterate; I know you guys [in the media] don’t know me well from a personal point of view, but my heart is certainly in this club. It has always been in this club.

“Coaches make decisions, as I’ve stated here a few months ago. You would see that very clearly in my press release. I absolutely want to be here. We’ve got big dreams for this group, nothing has changed there.

johann-van-graan Van Graan at Munster training this week. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

“The most important thing is, I take you back to what a player like Dave Kilcoyne said, I’ve been open with this group. I will continue to do so and I’ll continue to put every bit I have into this club until I leave here on the 30th of June.”

While many supporters remain uncertain why van Graan opted to re-sign for Munster before changing his mind and deciding to leave the province for struggling Bath, the man himself says he has made his reasons clear.

In Munster’s press release confirming the news, van Graan said he had “reconsidered my options, prioritising what’s best for my family, myself, and Munster Rugby” and added that he had been “looking at the bigger picture.”

“In putting Munster first, I believe it’s the right decision for me to call time on my contribution and step away at the end of this season,” said van Graan at the time.

Yesterday, he underlined how much Munster has meant and continues to mean to him.

“Everybody on this call, everybody at the club knows my heart,” said van Graan. “I started here on the 19th of November in 2017 and I’ve loved every minute of it. I’ve put in my heart and soul together with everybody at Munster in this club.

“We’re a united group. The most important thing is people. I don’t want the next six months every week to be about me. Yes, I’m leaving. I’ve given my reasons, I’ve got incredible respect for Munster Rugby and the Irish system and I’ll continue to do my very best until the last day I leave here.

“As I’ve said before, I see myself as a Munster man, my daughter was born here, I’ll always refer back to Munster as my club and I’ve done my best every single day that I’ve been here.”

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johann-van-graan Van Graan will join Bath next summer. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Van Graan has drawn plenty of criticism during his Munster tenure, with much of it focused around the province’s playing style, and the scrutiny has intensified in recent times.

The former Springboks assistant coach says he has done his best to block it out.

“You’ve got to make sure that you listen to the right people. The right people are the people inside the HPC [high performance centre],” said van Graan.

“Throughout my whole life, I have said, ‘Listen with two ears and one mouth. Keep balanced.’ I was asked the question on Saturday night in terms of, are you disappointed with it [the criticism]?

“I think the important thing from my side is it shows that Munster means a lot to people and I understand that.

“I understand that people are incredibly proud of this club and they want this club to perform and this club to win.

“The only thing that I will say is, I am the exact same. All the staff, all the players in this HPC are the exact same. We all want the best for Munster.

“The important thing from my side is, I have got a job to do and that’s being the coach of this group of players and this team.

“I am very privileged and proud to be that and will continue to do so.”

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Murray Kinsella

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