OPINION: Pressure on van Graan is no surprise given run of form

Any Head Coach or Director of Rugby is going to have to take that criticism at some point or another and this is the same with every team sport where coaches have authority. When you’re winning, you get people repeating your buzzwords

Just think how many times you’ve heard people talk about “fight for every inch” when talking about Dan McFarland and Ulster over the last month or so and when you’re losing you get to talk to the end of journalists’ phones in a cold press room trying to explain why you lost, again.

So when I hear people say that Johann van Graan is “under pressure” after Munster have won two out of the last seven games, I would agree. Of course he is! Any head coach of a club the size of Munster will be under pressure after a bad run of results, especially two derby losses that were uniquely deflating in unique ways.  

Munster Rugby Press Conference, UL, Limerick 3/12/2019 Head coach Johann van Graan Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/Bryan Keane

Is he under pressure for his job? Nah. No more than any other head coach is outside of untouchables like Stuart Lancaster and Mark McCall but even those coaches are a bad season or two away from a few question marks. All the good days are just putting money in the bank for the tough times.

And for head coaches, the money you put in the bank during the good times is time. You’ll need plenty of that when results are biting and they’re biting right now.  In his post-match press conference, van Graan spoke about the need for time and, for me, he’s earned that time.

Successive semi final appearances in the two competitions we’re eligible to win is not to be sniffed at and with the coaching upheaval this season I think that where Munster are right now as a collective is not where they will be 12 months from now.

Heineken Champions Cup Round 2, Thomond Park, Limerick, 23/11/2019 Munster vs Racing 92 Munster head coach Johann van Graan Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/Tommy Dickson

One thing we know to be mostly true about successful club rugby coaching is that consistency of vision across multiple seasons is a regular blueprint for success. Pat Lam, Leo Cullen/Stu Lancaster/Mark McCall/Rob Baxter/Wayne Pivac all had three full seasons at their clubs and the addition of Larkham and Rowntree would suggest that time is exactly what this coaching ticket needs, rather than more upheaval.

Losing is never fun and you can’t talk about losing games on successive weeks without pissing people off and start a perception that can be hard to shake. The only remedy is to, well, win. And if you can’t do that regularly in the short term, when the time comes to put money in the bank in the medium term, you’ve got hit the motherlode. 

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