Johann van Graan: New head of rugby ‘under no illusions’ over Bath challenge

Date published: July 27 2022 - Colin Newboult

The man charged with revitalising an ailing Bath outfit, Johann van Graan, says that he has not underestimated the task in front of him.

Van Graan has joined the English club from Munster, a side that were regular challengers for silverware in the URC/PRO14 and Champions Cup.

That is very different to the West Country outfit, who finished bottom of the Premiership and were only spared relegation due to the top-flight being ring-fenced.

Despite having a talented squad of players, they have not performed anywhere near their potential and Van Graan knows that it will take time for them to get it right.

Becoming tough to beat

“As I said to the board when I came here, there will be some players here where the perception of them might not be that good,” he said.

“But with the right guidance, they might become superstars in the future.

“It is about getting to know the players, getting them in the right environment and hopefully we will see a lot of guys improving quickly.

“I am under no illusions that there is a whole journey to be undertaken here.

“The first thing I said to the group is we have to become tough to beat. We have to work hard on our habits, embrace change, because there is going to be a lot of change.

“It won’t be perfect in week one, it might not be perfect in year one, but there has to be a progression in terms of our performance on the pitch.”

Van Graan has already identified a few areas where Bath could make immediate improvements and potentially begin to right the wrongs from last season.

“We are a team who need to get fitter and improve our performance under pressure,” he said. “Last season, this was a team that conceded a lot of points in the last 20 minutes of games.

“What will that look like? Making sure we have more quality players on the pitch for longer, improving our fitness and having a common goal and connection between the rugby and the medical and conditioning.

“One of the things that has struck me about the Premiership is that the team in 13th place can beat number one on any given day.

“I am not going to make any predictions. It has got to be an improvement from last season, and we want to improve quickly.

“Teams that are successful go through a period of growth. Our challenge will be how quickly can we do that.”

Injury blow for Charlie Ewels

One player who won’t be available for the early part of Van Graan’s revolution is lock Charlie Ewels.

The second-row suffered a knee injury in the build-up to England’s tour of Australia and could well miss the entire season after undergoing surgery.

“Charlie has been for his operation, which went well, and he will be out for an extended period,” the South African added.

“It was a pretty serious knee injury. He is in good spirits, and he sees it as an opportunity to work on other parts of his game as he goes through the rehab process.

“These type of knee injuries, my experience tells me it is too early to say in terms of length of time.

“Is there a chance (this season)? Potentially, the back end of it, but I wouldn’t want to speculate on it now. It’s way too early.”

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