‘Bonus territory? We deserve to be here’ – Graham Rowntree says Munster have earned URC final shot
Graham Rowntree has rejected the idea that Munster are somehow in ‘bonus territory’, saying his side are in the United Rugby Championship final on merit.
The province have enjoyed a rollercoaster season and only last month looked likely to miss out on qualification for next season’s Heineken Champions Cup.
Instead, they’ve gone on five away games undefeated to book their place in the end of season show-piece in Cape Town, defeating the Stormers, drawing with the Sharks and taking down Glasgow Warriors and Leinster in the knockout stages to earn their shot at the Stormers who will be backed by the vast majority of the 55,000 people in the DHL Stadium.
“Win the next game. Bonus territory? We went to Glasgow and won, and beat Leinster, we deserve to be here, and we want to win this game. We happen to find ourselves in a final,” he said.
“We don’t do things easily.
"We’ve had some good adversarial growth, I think they call it. Our game has developed. We deserve to be here, regardless of what has happened in the domestic rounds, and in the play-offs, and we’re preparing for a final tomorrow.
“We’re going to do our best to win, make sure our game is at its best in order to give us that best opportunity.”
Captain Peter O’Mahony said the significance of winning a first final in 12 years would not form part of his motivation.
"It's hugely important for us to take the next step in these games,” he said.
"Getting to finals is hugely important, but for us, the team, it's not about that, it's about the performance tomorrow.
"The performance we need to beat Stormers is all we're focused on.
“Both teams in the final, it means a huge amount, I don't have to sit here and explain that, but at the end of the day it's who plays better tomorrow. That's what we're focused on all week, and have been so for the last 48 weeks."
Rowntree recognises the enormity of the occasion and wants his side to relish it.
"We’ve had some huge performances in the last five weeks in difficult places,” he said.
"It would be incredible for the club. This is not an easy trophy to win.
"But we’ll deal with how we can make that happen. It would be huge for the club. We’ll approach the game as another game and control what we can. Going into the games, be aware of what Stormers are trying to do to us and what we’ve got to do better in our game.”
He’s made changes to his team, recalling Calvin Nash, Malakai Fekitoa and Conor Murray to the backline, with RG Snyman fit enough for a place on the bench with Tadhg Beirne continuing in the second-row and John Hodnett remaining at openside.
"It's a challenge when everyone is fit and available, it's not happened a lot this season,” he said.
"Guys have come in or those guys who missed the semi and played well. We had some difficult conversations this morning. I left selection as late as possible to see how we trained, to see how we travel. It's a challenge.
“Both world class players, I just feel Tadhg deserves that start, he was exceptional the last game. RG has proven he can bring energy off the bench. Not many people can bring RG Snyman off the bench, the 'Bomb Squad'.
“Calvin's form is undeniable all season, but having said that Keith played very well in the last game. To have Keith on the bench, we cover four positions so that's why we've done that. Calvin, I think, merits the start on how he's played throughout the season.”