Friday 21 July 2017

Analysis: Erasmus saga leaves sour taste as Munster left in the lurch with no replacement lined up

Erasmus: Leaves in December. Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
Erasmus: Leaves in December. Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
Cian Tracey

Cian Tracey

Munster began their pre-season on Wednesday and when the squad reconvened in Limerick, the elephant in the room was quickly addressed.

Behind the scenes, Munster have been trying to convince Rassie Erasmus to stay until the end of next season but ultimately, the province should want someone at the helm who is fully committed to the cause long-term.

No one can deny Erasmus the chance to take up his dream job in South Africa but there is no doubt that he used Munster as leverage to get it. As Omar Little said in 'The Wire', "The game is out there and it's either play or get played."

Erasmus has done an excellent job in his one season in charge but leaving in December, 18 months shy of the three years he initially signed up for, has left the province in the lurch.

Munster do not have a replacement lined up, and if they did they surely would have said farewell to Erasmus now rather than at a crucial point of next season. The new campaign already has a completely different complexion to it and the last thing Munster will want to do is write it off as another transitional period.

Losing their director of rugby is a body blow and Jacques Nienaber's departure will hurt just as much.

Munster supporters will never forget the humility with which Erasmus conducted himself during the horrendous period when Anthony Foley sadly passed away but plenty will be irked by how the South African acted in the latter part of the campaign.

When Erasmus was reassuring the fans that he was committed to his contract, he was doing the same with Munster's players and their professional games board. They are understandably hugely disappointed with how the situation has played out.

Erasmus' return home has been a done deal since the PRO12 run-in. He was repeatedly grilled about his commitment to Munster and for those who thought journalists were merely flogging a dead horse, there has always been a reason behind the constant probing.

How his departure will affect Munster's summer recruitment remains to be seen. The province are in talks with a couple of South African players but their bargaining power is certainly weakened by not having a head coach or a director of rugby selling the long-term vision.

When Jaco Taute committed his future to the province recently, he did so under the assumption that Erasmus was the man steering the ship. It's unlikely that the mild-mannered Springbok centre will take to Twitter to vent his frustration in the same way that Bundee Aki did after Pat Lam announced that he would leave Connacht but every player wants stability.

Ultimately, Munster and Connacht were put in very difficult positions by the six-month release clause in the IRFU's contracts. The union must now move to eradicate that in order to protect their assets.

Munster created the director of rugby position to facilitate Erasmus' move. It is unclear at this stage if they will keep a similar structure or revert to their more traditional approach of having a head coach in charge.

South African rugby will benefit from having Erasmus and Nienaber back in their system and while the Munster show will go on, the whole saga has left a sour taste.

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