'We were obviously deflated and a bit down, it's an emotional time for anyone'

Johann van Graan told the Munster players of his departure yesterday.

Dave Kilcoyne said Munster's players were down and deflated at the new.
Dave Kilcoyne said Munster's players were down and deflated at the new.
Image: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

OUTGOING MUNSTER HEAD coach Johann van Graan says emotions were high when he told the province’s players yesterday that he will be leaving at the end of the season.

Van Graan will join English club Bath as their head coach next summer, having invoked the six-month release clause in his contract with Munster and the IRFU.

The South African joined Munster in 2017 and will leave as their second longest-serving head coach of the professional era behind only Declan Kidney.

“I told the team yesterday,” said van Graan this afternoon. “The very first day I walked in here I said I had one golden rule and that’s ‘treat others who you want to be treated.’ We have always been honest both ways so I told the group yesterday.

“It was emotional for me, it was emotional for them. But we’ve got seven months left and if I step away from it, that’s also professional sport. Coaches come and coaches go. Players come and players go.

“But we’re a tight-knit group and we’ve got big aims for this season but I don’t want to get ahead of myself and we’ve got a big game coming up this weekend.”

Munster loosehead prop Dave Kilcoyne said the province’s players were disappointed to hear the news and that there had been “a shock element” to van Graan’s announcement.

“It’s professional rugby – people have to make decisions, business decisions for what’s best for them and their family,” said Kilcoyne.

“Everyone has to do what’s best for them in life. Business-wise, family-wise Johann has made this decision and feels it’s best for him and you back him on that. He was very honest and forthcoming with the players here in the HPC [high performance centre].

“We were obviously deflated and a bit down, it’s an emotional time for anyone to announce news like that, whether it’s a player or coach. I’ve seen it over the years, lads have to give those speeches and they’re the hardest speeches to give. Again, you have to do what’s best for yourself and we respect that. He was very honest.”

Van Graan had signed a new two-year Munster and IRFU deal last summer in a sign that he saw his future with the province, but he has now opted to use the same release clause that Rassie Erasmus invoked to leave for Bath at the end of the season.

Asked what had changed since signing that fresh two-year contract only several months ago, van Graan opted against revealing any details.

“Look, I’ve never done and I’m not going to start discussing any of my contract details in the public,” he said.

johann-van-graan-during-the-warm-up Van Graan is joining Bath ahead of next season. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

“I’ve spoken to all the relevant people at Munster Rugby and the IRFU about the process that was followed and I’ve got seven months left here, so really looking forward to the journey ahead.”

Van Graan has yet to win a trophy as Munster boss but is hopeful he can sign off in successful fashion.

“That’s been the same from the first day that I joined and that’s one of our big dreams as a group, so nothing has changed in that regard,” said van Graan.

Meanwhile, Munster and the IRFU will be working away to find van Graan’s successor, as well as a new attack coach to replace the departing Stephen Larkham.

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Kilcoyne said he hopes to see current forwards coach Graham Rowntree and defence coach JP Ferreira staying on with Munster.

“Absolutely, yeah, two great men. Yeah, I’d love to see them stay.”

But 33-year-old Kilcoyne will have another new head coach next season.

While Munster had been keen for continuity and stability, Kilcoyne said he will look at the latest change as a positive.

“I got to learn so many different things from different coaches over the years,” said Kilcoyne.

“I started off here in the academy with Dumper, Tony McGahan, and then you have Rob Penney, he brought a totally culture in here. We had Axel, Rassie, Johann, this list of coaches goes on they brought in with them as well in terms of their backroom staff.

“You just learn so much off all of them and I think if you have the negative attitude of ‘it’s disruptive and it’s change’, well, that’s professional sport. The players change, the coaches change.

“I think that the more you absorb from these people… you know they don’t get to the top of their field for no reason, it takes a lot of good characteristics and good principles to be a head coach in an organisation like this, and for the players to learn, that’s the best thing you can do, you can learn off these types of people, these coaches, because they’ve obviously had to do a lot to get to those roles.

“So I’ve been very fortunate, I would consider it.”

About the author:

Murray Kinsella

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