Gloucester undone by Ackermann 'confidant'
OPINION: Jan de Koning looks at one of the key reasons for Munster’s demolition of Gloucester in the battle of the South African coaches.
The accolades were heaped on Munster coach Johann van Graan, as his team demolished Johan Ackermann’s Gloucester 41-15 at the weekend – justifiably so!
At the end of the game, the stats were quite even, with Gloucester shading possession and territory.
However, Gloucester had to work really hard for their two tries. In contrast, Munster seemed to easily breach the Gloucester defensive lines and seemed to have an answer to every question their English rivals asked.
While the pre-match hype was about Ackermann and Van Graan, the post-match analysis will reveal it was another South African that had the biggest influence.
Former Ackermann ally JP Ferreira was the undoing of Gloucester.
The Munster defensive effort in their two comfortable wins over Gloucester this season – 36-22 at Thomond Park in Round Two of the Champions Cup back in October and the past weekend’s demolition at Kingsholm – had shades of the near-impenetrable look of the Lions when Ackermann and Ferreira combined in Johannesburg during their impressive 2016 and 2017 Super Rugby campaigns.
Ferreira held the position of defence coach at the Lions since 2013, helping the side to a Currie Cup Championship in 2015 and consecutive Super Rugby finals in 2016 and 2017.
He made the move to Munster in December 2017, replacing fellow South African Jacques Nienaber – who returned to join Rassie Erasmus in the Springbok coaching panel.
The perfect example of Ferreira’s influence could be seen in the period directly after half-time, when Gloucester – trailing 3- 20 at the break – took the ball through 35 phases before they were able to score.
It says as much about Munster’s defensive resolve as it does about Gloucester’s attacking patience.
However, that was as good as it got for Gloucester – as they simply could not match the Munster physicality and continued to cough up points in the face of the impervious Munster defence.
Munster insiders say when Ferreira arrived in Limerick he didn’t make massive changes – just ‘one or two little adjustments’, slight things you probably wouldn’t notice.
It is more in the attitude where you will see the difference.
This past weekend Munster made 178 tackles to Gloucester’s 142. Munster missed 20 tackles, for a tackle success rate on 90 percent, while Gloucester missed 19 for a success rate of 88 percent.
It was a similar scenario back in October – when Gloucester had 58 percent possession and 60 percent territory. Munster made 159 tackles and missed 16, for a success rate of 91 percent. Gloucester made 95 tackles and missed 19 for a success rate of just 83 percent.
With just one round remaining Munster is well-placed to advance to the play-offs as the Pool Two winners – sitting on top of their group with 17 points ahead of Exeter Chiefs (13), a team they will host in Limerick this coming Saturday.
No doubt Ferreira will be a key man in their build-up to the Thomond Park decider.
By Jan de Koning