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Munster chief’s solution if Covid strikes in South Africa – ‘A crate of wine in my suite’


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

Munster forwards coach Graham Rowntree joked "a crate of wine" will be his solution if Covid strikes again in South Africa
Munster forwards coach Graham Rowntree joked “a crate of wine” will be his solution if Covid strikes again in South Africa

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.







Munster forwards coach Graham Rowntree joked “a crate of wine” will be his solution if Covid strikes again in South Africa
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Image:

©INPHO/Morgan Treacy)

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.

Who do you think will win the inaugural URC title? Let us know in the comments section.

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.”







Munster head coach Johann van Graan is targeting back-to-back victories in his native South Africa
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Image:

Andrew SURMA/ SIPA USA)

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.

A repeat of those events at this point in the campaign would be a hammer blow to their URC title hopes, particularly with many of their international stars away with Ireland at the Six Nations.

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.

The word on the grapevine is that the 50-year-old is among the candidates to take over from Van Graan, who will join Premiership outfit Bath as head coach later this year.

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