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Johann van Graan: Coaching profile

Rich Dore

17 Oct 2017

Last week it was announced by Munster that Johann van Graan will be joining the province as head coach in November, having signed a contract until June 2020.

Van Graan comes direct from his role as forwards coach with the Springboks and will take over the reins from Rassie Erasmus as soon as his work permit is approved, expected to be mid-November.

The 37-year-old South African will join forwards coach Jerry Flannery and attack coach Felix Jones, taking on the same responsibilities as Erasmus who has said he’ll work alongside van Graan for a transition period.

Here we take a look at van Graan’s career so far.

THE ASCENT

The incoming head coach is the son of Barend van Graan, chief executive of South African side the Bulls – and it was here where he got his first opportunity to coach in rugby.

Former Springbok head coach Heyneke Meyer first appointed van Graan as a video analyst, since hailing him as his “best appointment yet” when asked by South African TV Channel SuperSport about the coach ascending the ladder at the Bulls.

Van Graan initially worked for the Bulls’ Vodacom Cup team before moving on to their Currie Cup team and Bulls Super Rugby, where he helped win three Super 14 titles in 2007, 2009 and 2010 as the team’s forwards and attack coach.

SPRINGBOKS

In 2012 the highly-rated coach joined the Springboks as a technical adviser, linking up with Meyer again and impressing due to his reported attention to detail and ability to form strong relationships with players.

Van Graan was made both assistant and forwards coach and helped his country to a semi-final at the 2015 Rugby World Cup, where they pushed eventual champions New Zealand very hard.

After the tournament, van Graan was the only member of the Springbok coaching team to survive a restructure, continuing his role under new head coach Allister Coetzee up until now.

THE STEP-UP

The incoming Munster boss has no experience as a director of rugby or head coach, but is clearly ambitious and the squad can expect a focus on attention to detail.

“I believe in meticulous planning and that everything is in detail,” van Graan told South Africa’s Sunday Times in 2014. “Rugby players cannot always focus on emotion. The only way to be perfect in your execution is to be perfect in your detail.”

Van Graan seems to come recommended by all who’ve worked with him and has also earned praise from Erasmus, who will move into a new role as director of rugby with South Africa after a handover period.

“He started (coaching) at 33 or something,” said Erasmus. “He grew up next to the Bulls’ rugby field and he worked with guys like Fourie Du Preez and Victor Matfield and those kind of guys for years and years. It is a great character coming to Munster.”

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