Eben Etzebeth gives new Munster coach Johann Van Graan a heartfelt farewell 3 years ago

Eben Etzebeth gives new Munster coach Johann Van Graan a heartfelt farewell

The South African has left the Springboks set-up and is now settling into his new job as Munster head coach.

Johann Van Graan would have been hoping for a better introduction to the wider Irish public than being the defence coach for a Boks team hammered 38-3 at the Aviva Stadium.

Van Graan was part of the South Africa coaching set-up for the 2012 and 2014 visits, too, but he would have flown far below most rugby radars.

Following the Springboks' caning at the hands of Ireland, Van Graan parted ways with the national team and is, this week, getting to know his Munster players and backroom staff. He has already met most parties, on an October trip to Ireland, and he was in the crowd for Munster's hard-fought win over Racing 92.

South Africa captain Eben Etzebeth says the former Bulls coach will be sorely missed in the national team set-up. He told me:


"From a professional point of view, Johann is an unbelievable coach. Very detailed and dedicated. He is an even better person.  I have been working with him for the past six years and we clicked immediately. For his primary job, he is massively knowledgeable.

"Off the field, he is an amazing person. It is a pity we are going to lose him.

"One of his biggest strengths is that you really want to play for him. You don't want to let him down because he invests so much of himself in you. He really puts his heart on his sleeve for the team."

It seems as if Van Graan has already bought into the Munster philosophy of strength through togetherness and hard work. Outgoing director of rugby Rassie Erasmus has given Van Graan his backing and believes he will be a perfect fit for the province.

For all the positive talk, and spin, about the new man, he will need to start picking up results in his first ever role as head coach.

It is handy, then, that Munster's next game up is against Zebre [away] and on an international weekend, away from the spotlight. Handy, too, that Simon Zebo will be fresh, fit and available to play.