Even by Munster's standards, the last 21 days have been a hurricane of drama.

It started on Tuesday 23 November, a day which began in heartwarming fashion.

Munster were in Pretoria preparing for the Bulls, and head coach Johann van Graan was engaging and emotional as he spoke to the media from his hometown, recalling his memories of growing up embedded in the club that gave him his rugby education.

He'd gone from a wide-eyed ballboy to Super Rugby winning coach at the franchise, and was now returning to his home town to show off a project he had carved for himself.

Just a few hours later, the first hammer blow was delivered; senior coach Stephen Larkham would be departing at the end of the season, having turned down a contract extension from the province.

Two days after that, another sucker punch; the Omicron variant was detected in South Africa, their URC games against the Bulls and Lions were postponed, positive Covid-19 cases racked up by the day in their camp, and it took five days for them to be cleared to travel home, minus 14 of their touring party who had to stay behind and quarantine.

Then came the chaotic preparation for their Heineken Champions Cup opener against Wasps. Van Graan and his coaching team were in isolation, so handed the on-field control to academy manager Ian Costello, whose band of youth and experience rallied together to produce one of the province's great European wins.

After spending a full day out of the headlines, the province confirmed the big news this morning, that this season would be Van Graan's last.

The South African will leave in the summer after what will have been four-and-a-half seasons, with half a campaign left for him to make sure he leaves some silverware for him to be remembered by.

Van Graan was an assistant coach with the Springboks before taking the Munster job in 2017

In a statement released through the province, the former Springbok assistant says he was at "advanced stages" of contract discussions before ultimately deciding that his future lay elsewhere.

While it's believed he's the number one target for Premiership strugglers Bath, the news that his senior coach Larkham would be leaving may well have played into Van Graan's decision to walk away, given his contract renewal seemed inevitable mere weeks ago.

"The Springbok influence on the province was already well established before Van Graan arrived. Jean Kleyn, Chris Cloete, Gerbrandt Grobler, Jaco Taute and Jean Deysel had already been brought in by Rassie Erasmus."

News of his decision to leave has generally been greeted with well-wishes from supporters online, even if he hasn't always been a firm favourite of the fans.

Although reaching six out of a possible eight semi-finals in the URC and Europe, their style of play under Van Graan has often been criticised. While there had been signs in the last 12 months that Larkham's attacking plans were beginning to bear fruit, there was huge frustration over their lack of ambition in their defeat to Leinster in the Pro 14 final in March.

That frustration was probably heightened when Munster returned to the RDS a few weeks later in the Rainbow Cup, dazzling when there was no longer silverware on the line.

Van Graan was also the punching bag for fans who lamented the growing reliance of the province on South Africa.

In reality, the Springbok influence on the province was already well established before Van Graan arrived. Jean Kleyn, Chris Cloete, Gerbrandt Grobler, Jaco Taute and Jean Deysel had already been brought in by Rassie Erasmus.

The South African-isation of Munster was largely just a convenient stick to beat him with when results, or performances didn't impress.

When Van Graan played a major role in securing the services of World Cup winners Damian de Allende and RG Snyman, their nationality didn't matter. With both players now out of contract in the summer, it will be fascinating to see whether or not they can be persuaded to stay amid so much uncertainty.

Van Graan (right) and Stephen Larkham (left) will leave at the end of the season

Snyman's signing has been disastrous through the fault of nobody. Back-to-back ACL injuries fell either side of just four games for the province, but Munster are believed to be keen to keep him.

Likewise, they are facing a battle to retain De Allende's services. Aside from the freak fire-pit accident which saw him miss the tail end of last season, the centre has avoided the injury-fate of Snyman, and has lived up to both his reputation and price-tag in his 18 months at Thomond Park.

"There is enough talent in the squad to attract some of the biggest names in the game. Compared to when they were recruiting Erasmus in 2016, or even Van Graan 18 months later, they are a strong proposition."

Keeping him at the province amid so much coaching uncertainty is looking more and more unlikely by the day though.

As well as hiring new coaches, Munster also need to figure out the result of their two remaining negotiations. Ferreira and Graham Rowntree are believed to have been offered extensions just like Van Graan and Larkham, but Ferreira may follow the head coach in his next venture.

Rowntree, who joined in 2019 as scrum coach following Jerry Flannery's departure, appears to be his own man, and has done an impressive job in his two seasons. Should he agree a new contract, the former England and Lions assistant would likely be a fine bargaining tool for CEO Ian Flanagan to use when they go after Van Graan's replacement.

Amid so much uncertainty, the silver lining for Munster is that if they can tie down Rowntree, and even one of De Allende or Snyman, there is enough talent in the squad to attract some of the biggest names in the game. Compared to when they were recruiting Erasmus in 2016, or even Van Graan 18 months later, they are a strong proposition.

While they have the clout to attract some of the biggest names in the sport, the confirmation of Van Graan's departure sparked natural calls for Munster to hand La Rochelle a blank cheque in order to bring Ronan O'Gara back to Ireland.

O'Gara's return to Munster seems inevitable some day, but there are several hurdles to overcome. Having taken over as La Rochelle's director of rugby this season, the Corkman is in the early stages of his first leading role, and may want to stay out of the Irish bubble for the time being. Added to that, he would be an expensive hire to bring back from France, not only in wages, but the compensation needed to to allow him to break contract.

La Rochelle director of rugby Ronan O'Gara is the overwhelming choice of Munster fans

Another former Munster man Mike Prendergast could be in contention. The Racing 92 attack coach had been mentioned as a possible replacement for Larkham last month, but given his career trajectory it wouldn't be a stretch to consider him in the mix for the main role.

Looking at other Munster alumni, Hurricanes head coach Jason Holland could be a popular wildcard. The New Zealand native played more than 100 times for the province before starting his coaching apprenticeship under Tony McGahan in 2008.

Closer to home, Ian Costello has done himself no harm in the last couple of weeks. The Academy manager may not have the pedigree and experience to replace Van Graan, but may earn himself a spot on the next head coach's ticket.

While Van Graan has been in charge for four years, the next six months are likely to define his legacy at the province.

Already the second-longest serving coach in their professional era, a URC title or Heineken Cup success would elevate his standing with the supporters, and ensure he's remembered as the man who ended the long wait for silverware.

Munster fans would be delighted with such a send-off.

Listen to the RTÉ Rugby podcast on Apple Podcasts, Soundcloud, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts.

Follow Montpellier v Leinster (Friday 8pm), Ulster v Northampton (Friday 8pm), Munster v Castres (Saturday 8pm) and Leicester v Connacht (Sunday 1pm) via our live blogs on rte.ie/sport or on the RTÉ News App.

Listen to live radio coverage of Ulster v Northampton and Munster v Castres on RTÉ Radio 1 Extra and RTÉ Radio 1.