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23rd Apr 2024

Graham Rowntree clears up story on Jean Kleyn’s future after bad injury

Patrick McCarry

Jean Kleyn

“We were a bit thin on the deck, there, with injuries.”

For the second season running, Munster have been given a shot in the arm by getting well clear of Ireland and enjoying some time together in the South African sun. There are outstanding issues, such as a long-term Jean Kleyn injury, but business is starting to pick up.

Last season, Munster were in danger of missing out on the Champions Cup places, only to rally with an away win over Stormers and a draw with Sharks. Buoyed by their 13 days away, Graham Rowntree’s squad then reeled off knock-out stage wins over Glasgow, Leinster and Stormers, all on the road, to end a 13-year wait for silverware.

This season, the trip to South Africa came at a perfect time, again. Munster had been eliminated at the ‘Last 16’ stage of Europe and murmurs of discontent were getting louder, despite a decent run of URC wins. There was uncertainty over the futures of Peter O’Mahony and Simon Zebo, RG Snyman and Joey Carbery were definitely leaving, Andrew Conway had retired through injury and it was unclear if the province could hold on to Antoine Frisch after the Irish-qualified centre declared he wanted to play Test rugby for France.

The squad set off to the Rainbow Nation and, at least, the O’Mahony situation was resolved when he signed on for another season. The weekend clash with Bulls was massive for a squad that often revels in that underdog status. They rallied from a losing position to beat the 14-man Bulls, thanks to a late Conor Murray try.

That win was enough to see Munster climb to third in the standings. With Champions Cup rugby gone until next season, head coach Graham Rowntree can at least focus on trying to repeat that 2023 dose, to spur Munster towards a possible title contention. Up next, this Saturday, are Lions, but Rowntree had some other matters to first address.

Jean Kleyn
Jean Kleyn of Munster and South Africa, pictured at the 2023 World Cup. (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)

Graham Rowntree on Jean Kleyn

Jean Kleyn has only made one Munster appearance since returning victorious from the 2023 World Cup, playing 68 minutes in a league defeat to Leinster.

It was initially reported that a knee injury would prevent him from playing until 2024, but he has yet to feature for the province since that sole outing. He also picked up an eye injury in that appearance back in red. In his Tuesday press briefing, from Cape Town, Graham Rowntree sought to clarify the position on his Springbok lock. He commented:

“Can I just say, while we are talking about second rows, something about Jean Kleyn? There has been a bit said about his eye injury. He has been to America, and we are very happy about the plan for him, going forward. He’ll be available from the start of next season.”

While Rowntree will start planning for 2024/25 with the 30-year-old lock a key figure, a South African reporter on the Teams call had a more pressing query – could Jean Kleyn possibly make it back in time for this summer’s two Test series between Ireland and South Africa. Rowntree had clearly not give it much thought but did so, for a moment, before saying it was a possibility.

The Munster coach stressed he was ‘really proud of the lads’ after their weekend win over the Bulls, and said he may stick with the 6:2 bench split for their next game, in Johannesburg. “I’ve been warning everyone about a 7:1 split for a while,” he remarked, “but I don’t think I’d get away with that!”

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