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Munster coach Johann van Graan told RugbyPass he had no regrets seeing the Springboks lift the World Cup two years after he decided to quit the South African national team for a provincial stint in Ireland.
As an assistant, first to Heyneke Meyer and then Allister Coetzee, he had earned his Test level stripes, soldering through 71 matches from June 2012 through to November 2017 when he decided he wouldn’t stay on under the incoming Rassie Erasmus and would instead take over the position Erasmus had just left vacant at Munster.
Two years later, an irony is that Felix Jones, a van Grann assistant who surprisingly left Munster in June with no job lined up, was called up by Erasmus in an emergency after ill-health forced Swys de Bruin out of the reckoning. A few months later Jones is now a World Cup winner, unlike van Graan who is busy preparing for another Champions Cup campaign.
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“No, I don’t live my life with regret,” insisted van Graan to RugbyPass. “I had a fantastic time at the Springboks and I had this opportunity to come to Munster and it’s one I grabbed with both hands.
“I have loved my time here (with Munster) and you have got to be happy for other people when they achieve success and it’s incredible for South Africa to win the World Cup for the third time.
“I was privileged to be at the two previous World Cup finals, in ’95 as a 15-year-old boy and I went to the 2007 World Cup just before they won it in that final in Paris. I was fortunate enough to have been at the previous two and watched the third one in Cardiff (where Munster were preparing for a PRO14 game).”
Johann van Graan could have stayed working with the Springboks but he took a leap of faith with Munster in late 2017, a decision he has no regrets over despite South Africa going on to win the World Cup https://t.co/Q5TVYCnxpR
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) November 7, 2019
For the Saturday derby versus Ulster which kicks off at 5.15pm, eight of Munster’s World Cup contingent are set to feature. Andrew Conway, Chris Farrell, Niall Scannell, John Ryan, Jean Kleyn, skipper Peter O’Mahony and CJ Stander all start, with Conor Murray among the replacements.
JJ Hanrahan, Alby Mathewson and Chris Cloete are the only three to keep their places after helping Munster to a bonus-point win away to Cardiff. Academy winger Liam Coombes makes his second Munster start with Mike Haley and Conway completing the back three.
Mathewson and Hanrahan continue their half-back partnership with Rory Scannell and Farrell in the centre. James Cronin, Scannell and Ryan pack down in the front row with Kleyn and Billy Holland in the engine room. O’Mahony, Cloete and Stander are named in the back row.
In the hour of his greatest triumph, Springboks coach Rassie Erasmus remembered his late Munster colleague Anthony Foley https://t.co/TMUvPcg7zK
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) November 5, 2019
Ulster, meanwhile, have made seven changes from the side that defeated Zebre, including the return of Irish internationals Jacob Stockdale and Jordi Murphy for their first appearances this season.
In the back three, Matt Faddes switches to full-back and is joined by the returning Stockdale and Rob Lyttle on the wings. Stuart McCloskey is re-called to join Luke Marshall in midfield. Angus Curtis will make his first start for Ulster this season at fly-half and is joined by John Cooney at scrum-half, who made his 50th appearance last time out.
Among the four changes in the forwards, Marty Moore returns to make his first start of the season at tighthead, joining Jack McGrath at loosehead and captain Rob Herring to make up an all-international front row. Sam Carter comes back in to join Alan O’Connor in the second row. Joining Murphy in the back row will be Sean Reidy at blindside and Nick Timoney at No8.
MUNSTER: Mike Haley; Andrew Conway, Chris Farrell, Rory Scannell, Liam Coombes; JJ Hanrahan, Alby Mathewson; James Cronin, Niall Scannell, John Ryan, Jean Kleyn, Billy Holland, Peter O’Mahony (capt), Chris Cloete, CJ Stander. Reps: Jeremy Loughman, Kevin O’Byrne, Stephen Archer, Fineen Wycherley, Jack O’Donoghue, Conor Murray, Tyler Bleyendaal, Arno Botha.
ULSTER: Matt Faddes; Rob Lyttle, Luke Marshall, Stuart McCloskey, Jacob Stockdale; Angus Curtis, John Cooney; Jack McGrath, Rob Herring (capt), Marty Moore, Alan O’Connor, Sam Carter, Sean Reidy, Jordi Murphy, Nick Timoney. Reps: Adam McBurney, Eric O’Sullivan, Tom O’Toole, Kieran Treadwell, Matthew Rea, David Shanahan, Bill Johnston, Robert Baloucoune.
WATCH: Siya Kolisi and Rassie Erasmus after South Africa’s arrival home with the World Cup
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