Former Springbok captain Adriaan Strauss lavishes praise on new Munster boss Johann van Graan

Colm Kinsella, Rugby Correspondent

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Colm Kinsella, Rugby Correspondent

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ckinsella@limerickleader.ie

Former Springbok captain Adriaan Strauss lavishes praise on new Munster boss Johann van Graan

Former Springbok captain Adriaan Strauss, part of the Barbarians squad in Limerick this week to face Tonga at Thomond Park

FORMER Springbok captain Adriaan Strauss has paid a glowing tribute to new Munster head coach Johann van Graan describing him as ‘probably the most knowledgeable guy in rugby that I know.’

Hooker Strauss, a member of the Barbarians squad which is in Limerick this week preparing for Friday night’s international fixture with Tonga at Thomond Park, 7.30pm, played 66 times for South Africa between 2008 and his retirement from international rugby at the end of last season.

Springboks’ assistant-coach Johann van Graan will take over as Munster head coach on November 20, two days after South Africa face France in an autumn international at Stade de France.

His first game in charge of Munster will be the Sunday, November 26 Guinness Pro14 clash with Zebre in Italy.

Thirty one-year-old hooker Strauss worked with van Graan in the Springboks. Van Graan cut his teeth as a coach with Strauss’ club the Bulls.

Speaking from the Barbarians hotel base in the Limerick, Strauss told the Limerick Leader: "I have worked with Johann for a couple of years. He started off at the Bulls as a youngster when I started there. To be honest with you, I think, probably the most knowledgeable guy in rugby that I know.

"It would have been a massive honour for me to work with him as a head coach. I worked with him for a couple of years with the Boks when he was the forwards coach. 

"He is a very hard worker, a people's person and I can't think of a better head coach, honestly.

"I am not surprised that South Africa have let him come to Ireland. There are good coaches in South Africa as well and I think he has been with the Boks' for a couple of years now and I think he deserved the opportunity to be a head coach somewhere. I think he will do an extremely good job and this is his opportunity.

"He is an assistant at the Boks now and I think it is a great opportunity for him.

"I also played under Rassie Erasmus at the Cheetahs. He is an exceptional rugby brain, good coach and it will be good for South Africa to have him back again. I think Johann will do an exceptional job I believe, I would vouch for him any day of the week.

Strauss, a cousin of Leinster and Ireland hooker Richardt Strauss, is looking forward to running out at Thomond Park for the first time in Friday night’s fixture between the Barbarians and Tonga. 

"It will by first time to play at Thomond Park on Friday. I am excited about it. I have been enjoying the past two weeks with the Barbarians, really enjoying rugby, enjoying time with the boys and enjoying the game. I am looking forward to getting back out on the pitch.

"I am retired from international rugby and I only play Super Rugby now. I didn't play Currie Cup at home. 

"It (Barbarians game at Twickenham on Saturday last) felt very competitive at stages on Saturday against the All-Blacks, especially in the first half it felt like we had control for a large part of the game.

“The All-Blacks, the team that they are, fought back, very structured in the second half and they killed us with good contestable kicking and that is going to happen when you play against a team like that.

"They assessed and saw there was a weakness and they used it to their advantage in the second half.”

Asked who he felt would find Saturday’s autumn international between Ireland and South Africa at the Aviva Stadium, Strauss said: "I think Saturday will be very tough Test match. I think the Boks have really done well this year to turn a couple of things around, turn the corner. I am definitely rooting for the Boks.

“I think it will be a good physical tough Northern Hemisphere game, but I am rooting for the Boks."