Munster Rugby today announced the signing of Springbok assistant coach Johann Van Graan as the province’s new Head Coach.
Van Graan is not a name that will be familiar to a lot of Munster fans – not unless they’re pretty embedded in Springbok rugby, anyway.
Van Graan has been a member of the Springboks set up since 2012 when he was appointed as a technical advisor by Heineke Meyer, but before long the hard working, video obsessed analyst had grown into a role as assistant coach. The nature of his appointment as a technical advisor – an obsession with detail, video analysis and in-game statistics – should tell you everything you need to know about his approach to the sport.
Johann Van Graan is a student of the game.
It would be easy to look at the recent Springboks’ results as a damning indictment of Van Graan, but that would be a short-sighted view of his abilities.
As for playing style, it would be fair to describe Van Graan as a Springbok traditionalist with a modern approach; his game philosophy has been described to me as a progressive, modern technical coach with strong fundamentals in defence, an emphasis on forward play and progressive ideas in attacking rugby.
He’s a noted forward technician, who’s got a reputation as being extremely detail orientated in his approach both on the field and off. He was described to me as a man that focuses on the technical, tactical and positional minutia of on-field performance.
Of course, it remains to be seen how he progresses here but given his pedigree, youth and experience of high level test rugby, I’m sure he’ll be capable of developing on the work put in by Rassie Erasmus.
Don’t confuse his relative obscurity for a lack of talent or suitability for this role. As an appointment, it’s certainly a risk but there are very few coaching hires that aren’t in 2017.