The arrival of the Springbok World Cup-winning duo of Damian de Allende and RG Snyman has given Munster hope that they can upset the odds when they meet defending PRO14 champions Leinster at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday 08:35 pm SA time.
The resumption of play for PRO14 kicks off with a weekend of top-class derbies, with the Irish clash the headline act in a mouth-watering weekend of matches in the tournament and the two Springboks are key players for South African coach Johann van Graan.
Both players should add to the firepower of Van Graan’s side, with Snyman linking up with two other South Africans who have naturalised for Ireland - lock Jean Kleyn and flanker CJ Stander – in the pack.
“We haven’t played a warm-up game yet, and RG and Damian haven’t played a game with us yet. We have been together for four weeks, so like with all teams, and you would have seen with the New Zealand, Australian and Premiership games, all the games were stop-start affairs,” Van Graan said.
“Hopefully we hit the ground running but it will take time for those guys to get in properly. In terms of the squad, we are looking to improve our squad year on year. It is certainly very exciting to have players of their calibre coming in and I look forward to seeing them in a Munster jersey.”
The underdog tag sits well with Munster, who are looking to make a big impression when they take the field this weekend, but their preparations hit a snag when a junior squad member tested positive for COVID-19 last week, forcing the cancellation of two training sessions.
“We’re going to the Aviva stadium against Leinster and they have only lost one PRO14 game in the last 19 or 20 there. They are unbeaten the whole of last season. There are certainly no weaknesses in their squad, strong lineout and their continuity is excellent, as is their defence.
“We will have to be very good to beat them in the Aviva but our focus has been very much on ourselves and we give them the respect that they deserve. They are quite clearly the best team in Europe and this is the start of a new competition for us over the next four weekends, but the one thing we know for a fact now is that we have two games against Leinster and Connacht ahead of us.”
“There is not any way to judge it on, last week Tuesday was the last time that we trained and we only had four weeks of contact training. We put the health and safety of our players and staff first, and last week didn’t go to plan, we weren’t in a position to train on Thursday and Friday and in the context of a four-week block of contact that isn’t ideal. But those are the cards that have been dealt to us but we are very excited to play.
“I’ve said before this is much more than a rugby game, it is very important that sport gets going again in Ireland, and a lot of people are very excited at this prospect. It is impossible to say where we are at. The fact that we play Leinster in the Aviva is something that all the players are looking forward to.”