CAPE TOWN – One of SA Rugby’s worst-kept secrets has finally been revealed – Johann van Graan is quitting the Springboks for Munster in Ireland.
Despite head coach Allister Coetzee’s “blow-out” a few weeks ago when he denied that Van Graan is leaving the Bok set-up, SA Rugby confirmed in a statement on Wednesday afternoon that their forwards coach was going north.
The 37-year-old has signed with Munster until June 2020, and will effectively be taking over from Rassie Erasmus, who will be leaving Munster to return to SA Rugby as a director of rugby.
Erasmus was contracted until December 31 this year, but with Van Graan having been immediately released from his role, the former Stormers coach could come back home earlier – hopefully in time for the end-of-year tour to Europe.
Erasmus will be joined by his long-time lieutenant Jacques Nienaber from Munster, who will serve as the high-performance coach for SA Rugby.
“This appointment has resulted in the restructuring of the coaching ticket, with Johann taking on the same responsibilities as Rassie Erasmus. Johann will work alongside Rassie subject to obtaining a work permit, which the province hopes will be attained by mid-November, to ensure a seamless transition.”
Their insight will be particularly welcome given the fact that the Boks face Ireland in their tour opener on November 11 in Dublin, with further Tests against France in Paris on November 18 and Italy at a venue to be confirmed on November 25.
But for Van Graan, the Munster post is finally an opportunity to be in charge after six years in the Bok set-up and many others at the Bulls as an assistant coach.
“I was fortunate enough to be part of the Springboks for the past six years and 69 Tests so far, which was an incredible journey up to now,” Van Graan said.
“A special word of thanks to Allister Coetzee, Heyneke Meyer, Ian Schwartz (Springbok team manager), Jurie Roux and Mark Alexander (SA Rugby president) for their belief in me and their fantastic support.
“To the members of the Springbok management, words can’t describe my gratitude towards all of you, especially my fellow coaches, who are all fantastic people.
“The Springboks are a big part of my life and I was blessed to coach some of the best players in the world.
“The training and matches were important, but even more so, the times we spent together, and the friendships I have made is something I will cherish for the rest of my life.
“I will always look back with gratitude, but now I am looking forward with real excitement towards the next chapter of my life. To all the players: ‘Memories are all we have!’”
Coetzee added: “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.
“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. I want to wish him well in his new role.”