Johann Van Graan – “If I Had To Pick One Player That Shows Others What Professional Rugby Players Should Be Like…”

Legend.

When Alby Mathewson entered the fray for Munster against Racing 92 on Saturday evening for the very last time – the difference was instantly noticeable.

Thomond Park erupted as soon as the former All Black stepped on the pitch, and it was his energy and speed that got the southern province back into the game to snatch a late draw.

Initially signed on a short-term deal the Kiwi ended up signing multiple extensions, totalling a 15-month stay in the end. And the impact he has had around Munster is there to be seen.

Head coach Johann van Graan was full of praise for his departing nine on Saturday evening, calling him the “standard-bearer” and describing him as the best professional he has ever coached in his 17 years in the game.

“Like Pete [O’Mahony] said, Alby has been the standard-bearer for the last 15 months for this team,” van Graan said.

“I’ve coached for 17 years in professional rugby, nine at the Bulls, six at the Springboks and two at Munster, and if I had to pick one player that shows others what professional rugby players should be like, it is Alby Mathewson.

“We will miss him very much and he’s a Munster man for always now and we can’t thank him enough. I think the word legend gets thrown around a lot but certainly from an individual point of view he’s certainly one of the very best I’ve coached.

Mathewson himself was emotional after the game, thanking Munster and their fans for an incredible experience.

“From the get-go, my personality and mindset is to come and do my best, earn the respect of the players and the fans, and truly buy into what it means to be a Munsterman,” Mathewson told Munster Rugby TV.

“Being here 15 months I’ve learned what that’s all about and just how much the team means to the supporters and Limerick and the wider community.

“It’s a special club, the supporters are special and they’re known worldwide for their support and you can see why.

“I’m just glad I was able to be a part of that. I’ve made memories I’ll never forget.

“Making my All Blacks debut here and then getting to play for the club exactly ten years later. It’s pretty special.”