Rea­sons to be op­ti­mistic

Irish Examiner - Sport - - RUGBY -

The Spring­boks aren’t happy:

That South Africa’s un­der-pres­sure head coach Al­lis­ter Coet­zee went into melt­down at the very thought of Van Graan leav­ing his back­room team is a telling in­sight into how much the Boks are going to miss Mun­ster’s new boss. Also en­cour­ag­ing is that Rassie Eras­mus was hop­ing to work with his re­place­ment when he took up his post as South Africa’s direc­tor of rugby.

The low pro­file:

Foot­ball sup­port­ers of a cer­tain age will re­mem­ber the head­line ‘Arsene Who?’ when Ar­se­nal un­veiled a lit­tle-known French­man as their new boss in 1996. Many Gun­ners fan may want Wenger gone at this stage, 21 years later but no-one can deny the pos­i­tive im­pact he had. Van Graan’s ar­rival with­out the bag­gage of fail­ure for his first head coach­ing post is a big gam­ble for Mun­ster but the pos­si­bil­i­ties are dif­fi­cult to ig­nore.

He comes highly rec­om­mended:

Eras­mus ex­plained why he wanted JVG to stick around in South Africa, cit­ing his work ethic, knowl­edge of the game and char­ac­ter as well as a track record that has seen help the Bulls win three Su­per Rugby ti­tles. So what if he has a low pro­file? Heyneke Meyer took a punt on Van Graan as a video an­a­lyst at the Bulls a decade ago and the rookie helped him win three Su­per Rugby ti­tles, im­press­ing him so much Meyer brought him along when he got the Spring­boks job, call­ing him “prob­a­bly the best ap­point­ment I’ve ever made”.

An end to the un­cer­tainty:

Mun­ster’s play­ers have said all along that Eras­mus’s de­par­ture has not changed any­thing about the way they go about things but not know­ing who the re­place­ment was can­not have helped in any shape or form. Van Graan’s ap­point­ment ends the un­cer­tainty.

The tran­si­tion pe­riod:

With an ar­rival date ex­pected in mid-novem­ber, Van Graan will be eased into his brave new world at Mun­ster by Eras­mus and hav­ing never been a head coach be­fore, he will need ev­ery minute he can get. Yet it will also al­low the South African time to syn­chro­nise with home­grown as­sis­tant coaches Jerry Flan­nery and Felix Jones be­fore the young man­age­ment trio are left to their steer the ship, a month be­fore the back-to-back Euro clashes with Le­ices­ter Tigers.

— Si­mon Lewis

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