Sunday 18 March 2018

'Compared to last year, this will be a breeze' - Rassie Erasmus

Munster’s CJ Stander with the Guinness PRO14 trophy at yesterday’s launch in the Aviva Stadium. Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
Munster’s CJ Stander with the Guinness PRO14 trophy at yesterday’s launch in the Aviva Stadium. Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
Cian Tracey

Cian Tracey

Amidst the obvious disappointment of Munster preparing to say the long goodbye to Rassie Erasmus, CJ Stander candidly put the whole situation into perspective.

"The worst thing is walking out on a Friday and seeing 'Axel' and walking in on Monday and he's not there.

"This man (Erasmus) will still be there and we can still see him and even give him a call afterwards even if he's in South Africa and say, 'I'm struggling with this' and get some advice. This is the easy part."

The bonds that were forged in what was a horrendously difficult last season will remain and having dealt with the tragic passing of Anthony Foley in such a remarkable way, there is a resilience amongst this group of players that won't be damaged when Erasmus packs his bags and heads for home.


When exactly that will be is still unclear. Erasmus will leave when Munster find his successor and he is happy to stay in Ireland until that happens. Whether the South African Rugby Union will be as understanding remains to be seen.

"If I have to stay seven months, if I have to leave after a week, so long as the club is fine," the future Springboks director of rugby said.

"I know how the wheel turns and I never want the relationship between Munster and myself to reach the point where we could never work together again.

"I am supporting them and we are going to make sure the club is in the right spot before I leave.

"My priority is when Munster is okay. Of course they are allowing me to go. They could have said, 'Stay, you've got a contract'."

Such was the pride and dignity that Erasmus led Munster with last season, he has left his mark but he departs with a considerable amount of unfinished business.

The Munster show will go on, as it always does, and while Erasmus's departure might have been handled better, the reality is the new season starts next weekend and they need to hit the ground running.

"Teams adjust and teams come through situations like this," Erasmus reasoned.

"What we had to go through last year compared to what we are going through this year, this is a breeze compared to last year. Blame me for leaving. I made the decision to leave. Last year when Munster got myself in and we brought Jacques (Nienaber) in, hopefully it was a good job Munster did to get us in. And Munster is now working really hard to get the right guy in.

"Last year it was, "Would Anthony and Rassie be able to work together? How is it going to work? How can they get a director of rugby?'

"Sometimes Munster do a lot of things right which sometimes doesn't get all the credit; I'm talking on the administration side of things.

"I really think last year was much tougher than me leaving right now."

Erasmus admitted that he did feel "guilty" about signing players in recent months and selling them his vision for the future but he insisted that there is no ill-feeling in the dressing room.

"I feel embarrassed but they made me understand quite clearly that they didn't come here to play to be coached by me, they came here to play for Munster," he maintained.

"That was one of my biggest worries. I didn't think I'd be departing when I was recruiting those players. But apart from that, we've put some good plans in place.

"Look, the players always run the show with Munster on the field. So we'll try to keep it that way."

As for a message for supporters who may feel disappointed about him cutting short his stay?

"They are probably justified to feel like that," Erasmus conceded.

"The ones I have encountered have been very positive. They might be mad and upset inside but they aren't showing it to me.

"I have tried my best while I was working here. I am trying my best now to help with the transition and help the team as much as I can - involving the players and the management in the planning. I'm helping Felix (Jones) and Jerry (Flannery).

"I can just say, 'Thank you' for the way they have treated me and say, 'Thank you' for the way that they have supported the team.


"I can understand if they are disappointed but I also think a lot of them understand my situation. I love Munster. But I'm also nervous about missing out on something in my life that might never come again."

That is what it came down to. Erasmus has been given a job that he has craved for so long and the fear of not accepting the offer while it lay on the table was too good to turn down.

How many people can honestly say they wouldn't do the same in a similar scenario?

"Listen, there is nothing pushing me away from Munster, there is only something pulling me to South Africa," Erasmus added.

"Without a doubt, I thought it (offer) might never come again. I wouldn't have got my family over here if I expected that.

"I wouldn't say it's disappointing. It's emotional, but I wouldn't say disappointing because I really think we were on track the way we were going. That won't die.

"Felix, Jerry and whoever the new coaches coming in will have a squad who have clear goals and are ready for the new season.

"I coach certain aspects of the game but Felix took over most of them actually last season already. I was overseeing it and he was really growing quickly into that role.

"I'll be sad when I'm back home watching Munster.

"We've been through a lot of tough times this year, so I'm really quite attached to Munster."

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