Munster's SA template nothing new for Sharks
IN THE SPOTLIGHT: It’s all about halting Munster’s momentum when the Irish province goes head-to-head with the Sharks, says Springbok prop Thomas du Toit.
Munster host the Sharks in the opening round of the inaugural United Rugby Championship at Thomond Park on Saturday, September 25.
The new tournament – which features the former Pro12 sides and four South African franchises (Lions, Sharks, Bulls and Stormers) – is an unknown venture for both the Northern and Southern Hemisphere.
However, South African teams and their Irish counterparts have a very similar game plan, especially Munster – who have been directed by former Springbok assistant coach Johann Van Graan since 2017.
Van Graan was recruited following the departure of the current South African Director of Rugby Rassie Erasmus.
Speaking during an online media briefing, Sharks prop Du Toit admitted physicality will take centre stage during the encounter.
But, Du Toit said – despite their powerful pack – the Irish side boast an impressive kicking game that allows them to build momentum and cause major problems for the opposition.
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“All Irish sides are physical, but that doesn’t mean that South Africans are less physical sides,” Du Toit said.
“It is definitely going to be proper games – with physicality being front and centre.
“Munster is a side that has a good kicking game and they will play in the right areas, but when they need to use the ball and put it through phases, they can do that.
“The big challenge for us is stopping that momentum and doing it a few times throughout the game.”
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Having been the academy manager at Munster’s rivals Leinster, Sharks attack coach Noel McNamara shared Du Toit’s sentiment, labelling the Irish side a ‘momentum team’
“Munster have been very successful over the last number of years,” McNamara said.
“They’ve got a settled coaching team and obviously they have a South African coach in Johann van Graan.
“Stephen Larkham [Australia], Graham Rowntree [England] and JP Ferreira [South Africa] have been there for the last couple of years.
“They have been really consistent.
“They are a momentum team and when they get that momentum, they are very difficult to stop.
“They are going to present a lot of challenges for us. There is absolutely no doubt in our minds about that.
“But the overriding feeling is that of excitement and looking forward to the challenge.
“The best players are motivated by challenge.”
Despite Munster missing some big names like RG Snyman (injured), Damian De Allende (international duty) and Roman Salanoa (injury), McNamara said the hosts will still field a tough team.
“Munster have a big squad, they have a number of internationals in different positions. Over the last couple of years, there has been a couple of young players coming through as well.
“Yes, there might be a couple of guys unavailable – like the Springboks – but the reality they have great squad depth and regardless of the teams elected they will be a massive challenge.”
After Saturday’s fixture against the Munster, Sharks travel to Scotland to face Glasgow Warriors on October 2, before heading to Wales for rounds three and four – against the Ospreys on Friday, October 8 and Cardiff on October 16.