David Corkery on Munster rugby: Time for Johann van Grann to deliver a trophy

In his fourth season, the head coach of Munster simply has to land some silverware and end Munster's drought
David Corkery on Munster rugby: Time for Johann van Grann to deliver a trophy

Munster head coach Johann Van Graan before the United Rugby Championship match between Scarlets and Munster at Parc Y Scarlets in Llanelli, Wales. Picture: Ben Evans/Sportsfile

THIS season has to be Johann van Graan’s last roll of the dice and there can be no exemptions, concessions, or allowances.

Those who run the professional rugby in the province and govern above them in D4 must inform van Grann in no uncertain terms that if his players are not popping champagne corks and lifting trophies at the end of the season, he should have his CV up to date and ready for distribution.

After almost four years at the helm, the time for van Graan to harvest a trophy-winning team has indisputably arrived.

Munster rugby is now heading into its 11th season without having to open the trophy cabinet and this, for a team with Munster’s pedigree and eminence, is simply unacceptable. 

To think that a player like Peter O’Mahony could go through his Munster career without the bliss of sharing a few beers with his fellow players in a trophy-laden dressing room is a poignant thought. At 32 years of age, the Munster stalwart has amassed a serious amount of mileage and while his contribution on the field is still of the highest calibre, the next generation are snapping at his heels. 

Professional rugby has zero space for loyalty or sentimentality. Sometime in the future, Peter the great will find himself hanging up his boots for the last time and if he can’t look back at a single season of his Munster career and rekindle the moment a ribbon with a circle of gold was placed over his head, it will be a travesty.

Peter O'Mahony at Munster duty. Picture: INPHO/Ryan Byrne
Peter O'Mahony at Munster duty. Picture: INPHO/Ryan Byrne

The images of Munster’s towering star signing Rudolph Gerhardus Snyman hobbling from the of Parc y Scarlets turf during last Sunday superb victory in the United Rugby Championship almost seemed unbelievable.

Snyman who suffered a right knee ACL rupture seven minutes into his Munster debut last year has now mimicked the very same injury on his left leg and I think it would be fair to assume that he will not don a Munster jersey for the remainder of this season.

He had already made two successful cameo appearances in Munster’s two opening URC games and everything was going to plan.


Now Snyman will meet with a specialist to discuss surgery and it just goes to show how cruel sport can be.

One minute you’re riding high on the crest of a wave and the next you’re looking up at a surgeon with a scalpel in his hand and your future is as clear as mud.

At 26 years of age, I would like to think the man-mountain is young and fit enough to make a successful return but these types of injuries are not insignificant, and consideration must also be given towards the South African’s mental torments.

We wish him all the best in his recovery.

With three bonus-point games very effectively negotiated thus far, Munster seem to be playing a more expansive and refreshing brand of rugby; however, I must remind you that this is exactly how they kicked off last season’s fractured campaign and we all know the fruitless harvest that last season yielded.

South African rugby has long been lauded for its forward-focused game-plan and you would have thought that van Graan and Munster would have fitted together seamlessly, but the game is ever-changing, and this is not how things have worked out.

It almost seems that when the business end and the better teams come calling, he loses faith in the riskier brand of how the game can be played and returns to the low-risk, one-out runner and box-kicking approach of trying to gain territory.

In order to win silverware in the callous world of professional rugby, you must be prepared to think outside of the box and play a brand of rugby that is based around taking risks that will yield high returns.

You might argue that van Grann and his coaching ticket did not have the kind of brash player that could play the more sprawling brand of rugby, but with players like Calvin Nash, Liam Coombes, Dan Goggin, Shane Daly, Ben Healy, Fineen Wycherley, Thomas Ahern, Jack O’Sullivan, Alex Kendellen, Paddy Patterson, and Craig Casey all 12 months older and wiser, that excuse will hold no water this year.

Then there is of course the return of Simon Zebo to the fold.

Zebo should never have been allowed to leave Munster in the first place and the all-important X-factor that all great teams must have in their armoury is now back in this Munster squad.

Without being disrespectful towards Connacht, if Munster are unable to notch up their fourth consecutive win in this league on Saturday, they will take three steps backwards.

Connacht will always be the poor relation in Irish rugby and despite their spirited nature and occasional surprise victory, they will always be a mid-table side.

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