Eras­mus’ com­mit­ment softens blow of Euro­pean exit

Coach’s de­ci­sion to re­main at Mun­ster for two more years pro­vides ma­jor boost

The Irish Times - Monday - Sport - - Rugby - GAVIN CUM­MISKEY at Aviva Sta­dium

The Spring­boks’ tan­gled political sys­tem is re­spon­si­ble for the ex­ile of Rassie Eras­mus. Al­low­ing the finest coach of coaches in South Africa to leave of­fered Mun­ster the ideal can­di­date to cre­ate the much-needed di­rec­tor of rugby po­si­tion in Lim­er­ick.

The pre­sump­tion was that Alis­tair Coet­zee, de­spite a CV punc­tured by in­ex­pe­ri­ence, would be a bet­ter option to coach the Spring­boks than his for­mer boss. Coet­zee, it was hoped, would prove de­feat to Ja­pan at the 2015 World Cup, along with hun­dreds of gar­gan- tuan for­wards stream­ing into Euro­pean leagues, would not send South African rugby into free fall.

Eras­mus fully in­tends to coach the coun­try that capped him 36 times, again. De­spite be­gin­ning a three-year Mun­ster con­tract last July, he en­gaged in over­tures from the SARU when they recog­nised the fool­ish­ness of their ways by let­ting him jour­ney north in the first place. Be­ing the man he is, the 44-year-old spoke hon­estly about the sit­u­a­tion. He con­verses with coaches and of­fi­cials in South Africa – both for­mally and in­for­mally – on a reg­u­lar ba­sis. When a de­ci­sion needed to be made – to stay or go – Eras- mus re­alised he had un­fin­ished busi­ness in Ire­land. So, a few weeks ago, he sat with these young Mun­ster play­ers to tell them that he, along with his ju­nior part­ner Jac­ques Nien­aber – seem­ingly a deal breaker in Eras­mus ne­go­ti­a­tions – would not be go­ing home.

Crys­tal ball

“They’ve just done such a great job,” said Mun­ster hooker Niall Scan­nell af­ter this 26-10 de­feat to Sara­cens. “It would have been a huge blow if they did leave be­cause he’s such a good coach. His for­ward plan­ning is un­be­liev­able.

“Some­times I won­der does he have a crys­tal ball. We were watch­ing Northamp­ton and Sara­cens last week and Northamp­ton were go­ing re­ally well and he said ‘60 min­utes now, this is where Sara­cens are go­ing to turn the screw’ and it was like he had seen the fu­ture. That’s ex­actly what they did. We were pre­pared for that today but found it hard to coun­ter­act.”

On Satur­day evening the me­dia sought clar­i­fi­ca­tion from Eras­mus. “Yes . . . Hope­fully. We are try­ing to cre­ate the win­ning culture...”

So you are stay­ing for the next two sea­sons? “Yes, yes, yes.”

Def­i­nitely stay­ing Rassie? “Yes.”

Eras­mus has al­ready carved open a new chap­ter in Mun­ster’s his­tory. Un­til Satur­day’s com­pre­hen­sive de­feat, it seemed like this un­be­liev­able nine-month jour­ney – since tragedy in Paris – would fin­ish with Euro­pean glory.

Feeling pres­sure

Conor Mur­ray’s ab­sence shows there re­mains an over-re­liance on cer­tain fig­ures. And that gen­uine, last­ing suc­cess takes time. As it did for the pre­vi­ous gen­er­a­tion who lost Euro­pean fi­nals in 2000 and 2002 be­fore An­thony Fo­ley lifted the tro­phy in 2006.

But time, now, is some­thing Eras­mus has com­mit­ted to forg­ing. “There is a say­ing in South Africa that a di­a­mond gets formed out of coal when it gets un­der pres­sure,” he said. “If you don’t feel this pres­sure week in week out and learn how to handle it . . . I re­ally think our play­ers are good enough, and the coach­ing team is good enough. I just think you have to get through weeks like this.

“I saw Sara­cens get through weeks like this, when they lost in the semi and in the fi­nal.

“There are many el­e­ments we need to im­prove upon but the big­gest is feeling the pres­sure, when the game is turn­ing, know­ing how to handle that. Against the dou­ble cham­pi­ons we weren’t able to handle that.”

John Ryan, the newly es­tab­lished tight­head, summed it up best: “Things have changed. He has given us freedom to play the way we want to play. There is a great pos­i­tive vibe around the squad.

“Every­one knows what we are do­ing. There are a group of play­ers there who will be there for, fin­gers crossed, five, six, seven years.”

He’s such a good coach. His for­ward plan­ning is un­be­liev­able

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