Munster coach Van Graan defends players' commitment
REACTION: Munster head coach Johan van Graan has defended his players’ commitment after their 8-10 defeat to Connacht in Round Nine of the United Rugby Championship.
Bundee Aki’s decisive try just short of the hour mark that gave Connacht an unexpected victory has plunged Munster into a hole that has added significance to their next United Rugby Championship fixture against Ulster.
The low scoring and ill-tempered match at the Sportsground in Galway was one of just two matches allowed to go ahead over the New Year weekend as Covid-19 continued to impact on the URC schedule.
It was the second defeat for South African coach Johan van Graan’s team in just six matches and it leaves them off the pace in the battle for a prime position on the log.
Almost inevitably, it has also introduced some negative comments on the timing of Van Graan’s recent announcement that he would be taking up a contract with English club Bath at the end of the season.
It was one of the reasons he was required to defend his team’s commitment after that match in Galway.
“It was pretty clear out there that our hearts and souls were in there as coaching staff and players. We lost the game by one score,” was Van Graan’s response to a question about whether minds might be drifting because of both Van Graan and assistant coach Stephen Larkham’s announcements that they will be moving on.
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Of course, Munster do have plenty of excuses for their recent poor form, as it should not be forgotten that a sizeable proportion of their squad was stranded in South Africa for some time in early December due to the travel restrictions introduced by overseas governments in response to the discovery of the new Covid variant.
Like many teams, Munster have been additionally hindered by the stop-start nature of the competition, and to put it simply, his players just haven’t had much rugby recently and it is hard to pick up momentum.
“We’ve had a helter-skelter period for the last three months,” said Van Graan.
“It’s the same for all the Irish teams.
“It’s nothing new that we’ve suddenly become used to.
“We just have to get guys on the pitch and do our best to get playing.”
Meanwhile, on the injury front, Jean Kleyn was removed with a knee injury during the game against Connacht on Saturday and will go for a scan.
Jason Jenkins had an abdominal injury in training last week and will go for a scan to assess but is unlikely to train this week.
Chris Cloete is being managed for a neck injury and will not be available this week.
Joey Carbery (elbow), Calvin Nash (ankle), Rowan Osborne (head), and RG Snyman (knee) continue to be managed by the medical department and are not available.
The Munster side to face Ulster will be named on Friday.