Friday 22 September 2017

Taute: The sky is the limit for this Munster team

'Taute has been an excellent fit for Munster and he has endeared himself to the supporters.' Photo by Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile
'Taute has been an excellent fit for Munster and he has endeared himself to the supporters.' Photo by Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile
Cian Tracey

Cian Tracey

One of the lasting images from Munster's roller-coaster season was Jaco Taute beating the crest on his jersey as he crossed for his side's second try on that emotionally charged October afternoon against Glasgow.

Here was a South African, barely in the country a month and already he had bought into everything the province stands for.

For all the challenges that Munster have faced collectively, there has been a lot of uncertainty surrounding Taute's own future.

Rassie Erasmus has repeatedly insisted that the decision wasn't a straight choice between Taute and Francis Saili but the reality of the situation is that the IRFU were never going to allow both non-Irish qualified (NIQ) centres remain with the province.

Taute has been an excellent fit for Munster and he has endeared himself to the supporters, not least after the passion he showed for the jersey shortly after Anthony Foley's funeral.

"During the whole season, me and Francis always had a chat that the team comes first," Taute (below) explained.

"I think through that, that is why we had success in this team. There are no individuals.

"Always when there was the speculation between me and him; I played well at the end of the season, he played well. I think that's a big contribution to the Munster set-up. We put the team first and that's why we got to a final and the semi-final in Europe.

Grateful

"But it is good to know where my future lies now. I'm so excited and so grateful to play for another two years in the red jersey."

Interestingly, it was Saili who was given the nod ahead of the Springbok centre for the Guinness PRO12 semi-final and final but it was Taute who Munster always wanted to keep on.

Taute has been nicknamed the 'Minister of Defence' by his team-mates and for all of his impressive performances since he arrived, there is a feeling that there is still more to come from him as he settles in his new surrounds.

The disappointment of Saturday's PRO12 final defeat to Scarlets will linger for a while yet but Taute was eager to focus on the few positives that emerged from the drubbing.

"We've had a great season but we are Munster and we hate stumbling at the last hurdle," the 26-year-old insisted.

"There are definitely lessons to be learned. We were beaten by a better team on the day, the scoreboard reflects that but I think there were a lot of positives to take as well.

"We put them under tremendous pressure when we had ball in hand but because we were chasing the game, we maybe tried too much - offloads here and there. But we had them under tremendous pressure at the end of the first half.

"We always have belief. I think our game has even grown since the Saracens game. We just need to learn how to deal with the pressure moments and the big occasions better."

Ambitious

The project that Wayne Pivac has built at the Scarlets is a prime example of what can be achieved under an ambitious coach.

While Erasmus's vision is not quite the same expansive approach as his Kiwi counterpart, Munster are certainly heading in the right direction under the South African director of rugby.

"I don't want to use the cliche of Rome wasn't built in a day but that is the first thing that always comes to mind," Taute added.

"But the thing is, it's our first year under a whole new coaching structure and I think you must take the positives out of that. We've got a long way to go if we want to win trophies.

"We are a team that are hard on ourselves. We will get better but the progression that has been made from last year to now is amazing. The sky is the limit now. We can't look back, only forward.

"It's always tough losing a final - working 49/50 weeks and then coming to the last hurdle and losing.

"I think we're a very tight team, we talk honest and direct to each other.

"We had our chat and we looked at each other in the eye. We know what we need to work on but we also know where we've been and where we've come to. We'll never just accept a loss."

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