Johann van Graan's admission about Bath despite turning club around
Bath head coach Johann van Graan is relishing another Heineken Champions Cup campaign after his side pipped Bristol for the final qualifying spot, but admits a vast improvement is required.
A 61-29 victory for Bath against a second-string Saracens side in front of a capacity Recreation Ground crowd pushed neighbours Bristol into ninth spot on the final day of Gallagher Premiership league fixtures.
Bristol beat Gloucester on Saturday and finished level on 47 points with Bath, but it is Van Graan’s men who snatched eighth spot ahead of the rivals on points difference.
The South African, who developed his affection for the Champions Cup during a five-year stint at the helm of Munster, said: “It’s a competition I love.
“I look forward to taking Bath into that competition, and whoever we get is to be determined.
“I’m looking forward to it. We need to get a lot better though.”
Bath’s nine-try win over Saracens was their fourth on the trot in the Premiership as they moved from bottom of the table to a top-eight finish.
Reflecting on the remarkable turnaround in Bath’s season and the impact of players like Ted Hill and Ollie Lawrence who joined after the demise of Worcester, van Graan said: “It was very unfortunate what happened to their club, and to Wasps. It’s amazing what a difference they made here and they’ll be happy men tonight.”
On the players leaving Bath this summer, Van Graan said: “For a lot of very good people, the train will stop tomorrow and they will get off.
“We talked from the beginning about connection, clarity and commitment. You saw that commitment here today.”
He added: “We still have a long way to go. We said we had to become tough to beat and I feel we have. There’s a clear way we play the game now. We became fitter and better. All credit to the players.”
Bath stepped up a gear after going in at half-time trailing Saracens, who rested most of their first-teamers having already guaranteed top spot ahead of next weekend’s play-offs.
Van Graan said: “Irrespective of who they put out, that’s a very well coached team and with a system I’ve got a lot of respect for. They kept us busy in the first half and it took some magic tackling to keep them out.”
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