Munster coach Graham Rowntree didn’t waste time in looking forward to the challenge of going to Cape Town after his team’s win at the Aviva and he has continued that theme into the start of what will be a fortnight of buildup to the Vodacom United Rugby Championship Grand Final.
On Saturday night, with he and his players still flushed with the emotion of his team’s epic win over the tournament favourites, Leinster, who finished comfortably at the top of the URC log and had only lost to Munster twice in 11 years, Rowntree said the job wasn’t finished. Munster’s fairytale comeback from being 14th on the log before Christmas would only be completed if they won the decider at DHL Stadium.
The last time Munster visited that venue they ended a long run of Stormers success at their fortress dating back to December 2021. It was a game that gave Munster impetus for an away sequence that includes, apart from the win against the Stormers, a draw with the Cell C Sharks in Durban, a win over Glasgow Warriors at the Scotstoun and now the biggest prize of all, a semifinal win over their regular nemesis, Leinster, in Dublin.
So Rowntree was hardly saying something that those listening didn’t know when he said the recent record for his team, including the win in Cape Town, was good for confidence.
“That (win over Leinster) was true emotion, but we don’t want it to end here. This can’t be our final,” said Rowntree to the Irish media.
“Looking at how we broke them down last time and how we dealt with their power game will help, but they will be better than they were that night. They will be really battle-hardened themselves, so it will be a real challenge for us. But we’re in a final, we back the work we have done, and we back our fitness.”
Rowntree added that his team weren’t scared of being on the road for the final as they’ve gotten used to it thanks to a winning sequence that now includes two consecutive away playoff wins.
“The final will be our sixth away game on the bounce, it’s unprecedented and we will enjoy it,” he said.
“There’s loads to improve on in our game. We will look at our game and strip our game apart this week. We will have a good review and keep going at our game. After the Glasgow victory (in the quarterfinal) it was very much still a case of working at our game, growing our game, just looking at what we can do, as boring as that sounds.”
It is 12 years since Munster, who are a proud Irish rugby province steeped in history, last won a trophy, which was the Magners League, and that will be an additional spur to the visitors, who with their 16-15 win over their arch-rivals apparently sparked a deluge of inquiries at travel agents and airline offices from Munster fans wanting to come to Cape Town.