Heinz Schenk
2 minute read
11 Oct 2017
4:44 pm

Springboks lose their highly-rated forward guru

Heinz Schenk

SA Rugby confirms they've lost Johann van Graan, who's becoming the new head coach of Irish giants Munster.

Johann van Graan is leaving the Springboks for Ireland. Photo: Steve Haag/Gallo Images.

The Springboks are a man down in the coaching team after SA Rugby on Wednesday confirmed that Johann van Graan is the new head coach of Irish giants Munster.

Ironically, Van Graan replaces Rassie Erasmus, who returns to South Africa to become the national director of rugby.

The immediate consequences of his departure is actually difficult to pinpoint.

The 37-year-old, who’s been the Springboks’ forwards coach since mid-2012, is highly regarded and definitely thins out South Africa’s coaching depth further.

However, Van Graan’s appointment raises the possibility of Erasmus coming back earlier.

The former Springbok flanker was only scheduled to return in January because Munster wanted him to stay on to help with the transition.

That process could be quicker now unless the red tape with Van Graan’s work permit takes longer than anticipated.

Jurie Roux, Saru’s chief executive, highlighted another potential benefit to South African rugby.

“Johann has proven himself as an outstanding coach and he has a very bright future ahead of him,” he said.

“The Munster appointment is an excellent opportunity for him to test and prove himself as a head coach in a very competitive European club rugby environment.”

No-one will complain about the possibility of Van Graan returning with that knowledge gained.

That the former Bulls assistant stayed in the Springbok setup for this long is also notable.

National coach Allister Coetzee inherited Van Graan – who was contracted full-time to Saru – from predecessor Heyneke Meyer.

When backline coach Mzwandile Stick was eventually redeployed at the end of 2016’s nightmare season, some observers felt Van Graan would go too given that he wasn’t on Coetzee’s wishlist.

But his work ethic and rugby intelligence clearly proved invaluable.

“I’ve had the pleasure of working very closely with Johann for the past two seasons. He is a very good man and I know first-hand why he is so highly rated,” said Coetzee.

“He is highly competent, extremely hard working and his attention to detail is one of his great strengths. He has a great passion for coaching and I have no doubt that he has all the makings of a very good head coach.”

Van Graan will be present on the year-end tour to Europe.