The news comes off the back of a number of recent player contract extensions and is another huge boost for the province.
Leaving his role as the Springboks Forwards Coach, van Graan and family made the move to Limerick in November 2017. His impact was immediate as he and the coaching staff of Jerry Flannery, Felix Jones and JP Ferreira guided the squad to the semi-final stages of the Champions Cup and Guinness PRO14 last season.
A year later and the 39-year-old has once again paved the way for Munster to reach knock-out rugby in both competitions, with a Champions Cup semi-final against Saracens first up on Saturday week.
Commenting on the news, Munster Rugby Acting CEO Philip Quinn said: “We are delighted Johann has committed his future to the province. There was a significant amount of interest from other clubs so it was always going to be a challenge to retain the services of a coach of Johann’s calibre. However, Johann is fully committed to Munster Rugby and I believe it is a statement of intent from the province that we have finalised this deal.
“Johann brought with him a wealth of experience and a track record with the Springboks and the Bulls in Super Rugby. He has put his own stamp on this squad over the past 18 months and has enhanced the Munster environment further. Working closely with his backroom staff he continues to drive the standards on and off the field, and we look forward to seeing the progress continue over the next three years.”
Head Coach Johann van Graan added:
“I am very happy and grateful to be in this position, knowing that I can continue to work with this incredible group of people and play my part in shaping Munster’s future. Coming to Munster I wanted to become part of the community, and every day I get to experience that sense of belonging with my family and I settling in from the very beginning.
“Moments and scenes such as last Saturday week in Edinburgh with the Munster supporters, players and management make for amazing memories, they can never be taken for granted. This is a special place, a special club to be part of and I look forward to continuing the journey together.”
Article from Munster Rugby
Munster confirm Zebo signing
This co-funded contract will see Munster’s all-time record try-scorer return from Racing 92 and line out for his home club where he made 144 appearances and scored 60 tries between 2010 and 2018.
In his third season with the Top 14 side, the 31-year-old has played 55 times and scored 21 tries to date.
Head Coach Johann van Graan said, “The opportunity to bring Simon back to Munster came about in early April following a final review of our squad’s budgetary position for season-end and with assistance from the IRFU to support what we believe is a really good deal for Munster and Irish Rugby.
“Simon’s desire to return to Ireland and play with his home club is illustrated by his willingness to sign at a level below his market value elsewhere. This has made bringing the province’s all-time leading try-scorer back home, possible.”
Simon Zebo said, “I am thrilled and honoured to be coming back home to play for Munster. My family and I have been so lucky to have enjoyed three incredible years with Racing 92 in Paris and I cannot thank the team there enough, I really have made friends for life and take with me some brilliant memories.
“However, as everyone knows, Munster holds a very special place in my heart and I’ve always said that I wanted to play for them and potentially Ireland again, so when this opportunity arose the lure of being close to home, family and friends and Munster fans, it outweighed all other options. I cannot wait to get back to the HPC with the team and hopefully a packed Thomond Park.”
Ulster Rugby agree to release Coetzee early
Marcell Coetzee has played his last game for Ulster Rugby.
With back-row, Marcell Coetzee, currently side-lined with a hamstring injury, Ulster Rugby has agreed terms which will see the player released from the club at the end of this month, ahead of his planned departure at the conclusion of the 2020/21 season.
Given the need for several weeks of rehabilitation following the injury sustained by Coetzee in last month’s Guinness PRO14 fixture against Leinster, Ulster Rugby and the player have reached a mutual agreement to part ways on Friday 30 April.
Head of Rugby Operations and Recruitment, Bryn Cunningham, said: “We have come to an agreement that will allow Marcell the time and space required to continue his rehab.
Lowry retained at 10 for Ulster v Zebre
21-year-old, Cormac Izuchukwu will make his first start for the Ulster men as he is named in the second row alongside Kieran Treadwell. Marty Moore comes back into the starting front row at tighthead, with Eric O’Sullivan and John Andrew retaining their starting berths at loosehead and hooker. Jordi Murphy will captain the side at openside flanker, with Sean Reidy and David McCann being retained at blindside and Number Eight.
A youthful back line sees Ethan McIlroy coming into the back three at full-back, with Rob Lyttle on the left wing and Robert Baloucoune returning on the right. Stewart Moore and James Hume will make up the midfield pairing, while John Cooney and Michael Lowry are named at half-back.
Brad Roberts, Callum Reid, Tom O’Toole, Alan O’Connor and Matty Rea are the forward reinforcements, with David Shanahan, Ian Madigan and Ben Moxham providing the back line options on the bench.
Ulster team to play Zebre Rugby, Guinness PRO14 Round 16, Friday 19 March at Kingspan Stadium (kick-off 8.15pm, live on Premier Sports / eir Sport):
(15-9) Ethan McIlroy, Robert Baloucoune, James Hume, Stewart Moore, Rob Lyttle, Michael Lowry, John Cooney;
(1-8) Eric O’Sullivan, John Andrew, Marty Moore, Cormac Izuchukwu, Kieran Treadwell, Sean Reidy, Jordy Murphy (Capt.), David McCann.
Replacements: Brad Roberts, Callum Reid, Tom O’Toole, Alan O’Connor, Matty Rea, David Shanahan, Ian Madigan, Ben Moxham.