Munster Rugby will relish the challenge of facing Cell C Sharks in Durban in the Heineken Champions Cup Round of 16, according to head coach Graham Rowntree.

The Irish province were beaten 20-16 at Stade Toulousain in a bruising Round 4 affair on Sunday, which saw them narrowly miss out on a top-four spot in Pool B and thus Round of 16 home advantage.

But Rowntree has asserted that any side hoping to lift the Heineken Champions Cup will need to pass tough away tests, and that Munster will be eagerly awaiting the trip to South Africa in just over two months’ time.

“If you’re going to win this competition, you’ve got to go places and win games like this,” he said. “What we are proving is that we’ve got form on the road, so I’m already looking forward to it. It’s a challenge, but we like a challenge at this club.

“We’re going to be seeing a lot of them (Cell C Sharks). And to me, what makes a class team is what you do on the road.”

Regardless, Rowntree admitted he was frustrated Munster couldn’t claim victory at five-time champions Toulouse in Round 4, having seen his team battle back from 11 points down to lead twice in the second half.

“I’m gutted about Toulouse because it would have been a nice feather in the cap,” he said.

“Not many teams come here and do what we did, recover from an early setback and find a way to stay in the game. We’ll have a look at some things we can do better.

“We’re tough to beat – that’s the bedrock of what I want us to be in terms of our DNA. I’m really pleased with how we’re going.”

Meanwhile, Toulouse skills coach Jerome Kaino hailed the quality of Sunday’s game as two of the Heineken Champions Cup’s most historic teams went head-to-head at the Stade Ernest Wallon.

“The history of the games between these two teams shows there have never been any blow-outs. So, to get the win against a very good Munster side was pretty pleasing,” he said.

“We started well but weren’t able to capitalise on our momentum. We’re just happy to have secured a home tie against the Bulls and it will be a different brand of rugby to adapt to against them.”

Ahead of that Round of 16 clash with Vodacom Bulls, Toulouse head coach Ugo Mola commented on how the three South African teams debuting in this season’s Heineken Champions Cup have raised the overall calibre of the tournament.

“I have always had the impression that the integration of South Africans is the first stone of a future international competition,” he said. “It turns out that we play a lot of provinces.

“We realise that in our pool, we had the champion of England, the winner of the URC, the champion of Europe. So, it’s a performance to finish second. In the other group, the French clubs struggled tremendously, and none qualified.

“I think the South African squads have really raised the level of the Champions Cup and it’s exciting to challenge them.”