'Dream big dreams': First van Graan interview as the new Bath boss
New head of rugby Johann van Graan has admitted he is dreaming of big things happening at struggling Bath. The South African has just given his first interview as boss at the Gallagher Premiership club after they recruited him from Munster.
It was last December when it emerged that van Graan had rebuffed a contract extension offer with the Irish province in preference of making a switch into the English scene for the first time, but his head coach remit has since been upscaled to head of rugby following the latest management reshuffle at the club which was unveiled in May.
Van Graan is now into his second week in charge on the training ground and in his first interview as the new Bath supremo – he had refused to talk about Bath during his final six months at Munster – he outlined his ambitions for a team that finished the 2021/22 season in 13th and last place in the Premiership.
New general manager Stuart Hooper frequently bemoaned the lengthy casualty list that affected the Bath squad during his three years as director of rugby, but van Graan hopes that an improvement can quickly happen in this sector to help them become a most robust team in the months ahead.
Speaking in a video interview published on the Bath website, van Graan said: “It’s fair to say I want to take my time in assessing all of those injured players, some are still on their way back. At the end of next week, we will give an assessment of where everybody is.
“We have a big injury rate, something we will work very hard to get down. One of the successes of the Premiership structure is you want to have your best players on the pitch and we want to make sure we look after them and condition them to the highest level humanly possible and hopefully that will result in fewer players getting injured. I will have a clearer picture at the back end of next week.
“It is important to note I have looked at fitness in the short and long-term category. We have had some injuries over the last few weeks so looking forward to adding some short-term options and I am really going to take my time to learn about the players. I want to see what we need to add and we might add one or two players during the season and hopefully the team really performs and then make decisions where we go in the future.
“I’d love to retain as many players as possible but as I said to the group, if you look at this as a train journey at the end of a season you make a stop and some people will get off and some will get on. The only thing we can control is the now and we are looking to improve performance right from the start.
“We started last week and it was important to make sure that we get a vision in place. A vision is pretty important because if you don’t know where you are going you are on a road to nowhere. It was important that we started off on that note. In terms of the players, exceptionally welcoming. They are really hungry to learn and to get better.
“In terms of the staff everybody just wants to play their part and add to the team and in a few weeks’ time, we will be going across to Jersey as a group waiting for some of the England boys to get back from Australia after their time away and some of the U20s and some players from other clubs who are still on their holidays.
“In Jersey, we will be together as a group and will discuss where we want to take this team and take this club. I have got a vision of where I believe we can go but you need buy-in from everybody. You have got to make sure that you dream big dreams because a coach I respect a lot taught me that you have got to dream big dreams because they make a man’s blood stir and that is what we are looking for – we want to dream big.
“We know we have got such a long way ahead of ourselves, we have got a lot of work to do but you have got to start somewhere and we started there last week.
“I am very excited to be here, incredible opportunity… Bath is what rugby is about. A rich tradition in Europe, a rich tradition in the English game. That is what you want to be part of, you want to be be part of clubs with values and history… Rugby is about connecting the club to the city and Bath is a city that is breathing rugby and we want to be connected to the city and that excites me.”
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