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Hooper survives as Bath only give van Graan the head coach role

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by Bob Bradford/CameraSport via Getty Images)

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Bath have confirmed that ex-Springboks assistant Johann van Graan will join them next season from Munster, but he will only become head coach in place of Neal Hatley rather than take over the director of rugby role currently occupied by Stuart Hooper – who welcomed the recruitment of the South African. There was a feeling that Hooper’s future at the club was under a cloud after he oversaw a brutal winless start to the 2021/22 season that has rooted them to last place in the Gallagher Premiership while they also endured a European hammering last weekend at Leinster.  

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However, while CEO Tarquin McDonald has explained that van Graan “will hold full responsibility for our game”, it appears he will do so with Hooper remaining on at the club as the Bath director of rugby. Van Graan confirmed on Tuesday that he had handed in his notice at Munster, rebuffing their two-year contract extension offer. That development was accompanied by the news later that day that Brent Janse van Rensburg had been appointed as defence coach through to the end of the season.

The busy week has now continued into Wednesday with the confirmation of van Graan’s arrival – but it hasn’t come at the expense of Hooper, who has been in the director of rugby role since 2019. A statement read: “Bath is proud to announce the appointment of Johann van Graan as head coach for the 2022/23 season on a long-term contract.

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“The former Springboks forwards coach and current Munster head coach will join Bath for the 2022/23 season having served five successful years with the United Rugby Championship side. Neal Hatley will continue as head coach through to the end of the 2021/22 season leading the coaching group, which includes Brent Janse van Rensburg in the role of defence coach for the 2021/22 season.

“Following his appointment, van Graan will be able to draw on significant expertise from the current coaching group. Specific roles and responsibilities will be communicated in due course.”

CEO McDonald added: “We have huge ambition at Bath. Johann is a world-class coach who will play a fundamental role in our future success. He will hold full responsibility for our game focussed on delivering winning performances. I am delighted to announce this appointment and look forward to welcoming Johann and his family to Bath this summer.”

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Director of rugby Hooper said: “Johann is a phenomenal coach with a proven track record of developing teams to be successful on the pitch. He has experienced winning rugby environments at the very highest level of the game and knows exactly what it takes. We have an outstanding and committed group of players and staff here at the club. Johann’s experience will add significantly to this.”

Van Graan added: “I am hugely excited for the opportunity to join Bath for the 2022/23 season. I see huge potential in this club, the players, coaches and staff. I am coming to Bath to work with everyone, and to achieve great success with everyone at the club. This is an exciting next step for me as a coach, and for my family in moving to a proud club and a true rugby city.” 

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