Graham Rowntree says Munster are bracing for a physical onslaight in their eagerly-anticipated return to South Africa this month to face the Vodacom Bulls and Lions.
Munster were among the Vodacom United Rugby Championship sides trapped in South Africa last November when several players tested positive for coronavirus which led to fixtures between the local and international teams being called off.
The Irish giants are set to make a second trek to South Africa for fixtures against the Bulls and Lions, which will be the first time they will be playing in the country since 2019.
It will also be the first time that the Bulls, Lions, Sharks and Stormers host opponents from the UK, Ireland and Italy in the URC.
Speaking to the Irish Independent, Rowntree, who has also toured South Africa with the British & Irish Lions in 2009, said Munster are excited to get the trip under way despite their experiences in November.
“I’ve no doubt that at home they’ll be good against us. They’ll be waiting for us,” said the Munster assistant coach. “There will be some great places for our guys to go and challenge themselves, playing rugby against some top teams in some top stadiums.
“It’s a country I’ve been to more than any other country on the planet. It’s a great rugby country.”
When Munster hosted the Sharks and Stormers last September, they were fairly comfortable in claiming 42-17 and 34-18 wins, respectively.
However, Rowntree is wary of going up against the “huge” packs boasted by the Lions and Bulls.
“Watch the Lions’ games, and see the size of their squad. It’s not fair. They’re huge men, and that’s a real strength of their game. So that’s what we’ve got to deal with in the Lions game.
“The Bulls, it’s physical breakdown. They’ve got a physical back row. Big men running at you very quickly on the Highveld. It’s a bit of a different challenge from what we’re normally used to but it’s a challenge we’ll be ready for.”
Munster will face the Bulls at Loftus Versfeld on 12 March, before moving across the Jukskei to take on the Lions at Ellis Park on 19 March.
Photo: NPHO/Ryan Byrne