An earlier attempt to hold fixtures in South Africa was thrown off course by the outbreak of Covid-19’s Omicron variant, but Munster are due to make another attempt at the trip
Image: ©INPHO/Laszlo Geczo)
Tensions are sure to be high inside the Munster camp ahead of their second expedition to South Africa this season, with high hopes this attempt fares far better the first.
The Irish province made the inter-continental trip at the end of November 2021 when they were first scheduled to face the Bulls and the Lions in the United Rugby Championship (URC).
However, Munster—along with Welsh clubs Cardiff and Scarlets, as well as Italian minnows Zebre— were swiftly turned around as the spread of Covid-19 ‘s Omicron variant threatened to derail their season.
Head coach Johann van Graan is set for a homecoming when he leads the team against the Bulls in his native Pretoria (March 12) before they travel to Johannesburg to face the Lions one week later (March 19).
His side were one of those with players and staff left stranded in South Africa after testing positive for the virus, while their planned fixtures were rescheduled to take place in March instead.
Speaking ahead of next week’s sojourn south, Graham Rowntree lifted the lid on his plans to combat quarantine if he is among those forced to isolate in a hotel room overseas.
“If I get Covid again, I’ll have another crate of wine in my hotel suite in Cape Town which got me through my isolation,” said the former England prop ahead of the club’s second attempt to stage fixtures in South Africa.
Munster’s forwards coach appeared to be talking from a place of experience, having already got to grips with quarantine measures in his own way (though perhaps not all that unique).
The Reds—who sit third in their URC conference and fifth in the overall table—must first overcome the challenge presented by Dragons at Thomond Park on Saturday.
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They’re scheduled to fly out from Ireland the following day, and the URC has assured measures are in place to avoid a repeat of the events witnessed in the build-up to Christmas last year.
“No, we’re happy with the protocols and we’re ready for it,” Rowntree added ahead of the squad’s trip. “And as I keep saying, we’ll deal with that on Sunday. We’ve a big game on Saturday night [against the Dragons] and we have to get that right first.
“There’s no-one who will get stuck over there again. We’ve ticked that box. That was a challenging time for the club but we’ve come through it.
“I think it’s made us stronger and we’re going over there looking forward to it. Those memories are gone.”
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Between players being out of action due to Covid-19 and the periods of self-isolation both in South Africa and at home, it was roughly a month before Munster were able to call upon their full squad again.
As for Rowntree, the former 54-cap international appears to be enjoying his time at Thomond Park after he signed a two-year extension with Munster in January.