Tuesday 17 September 2019

Erasmus: Experienced Van Graan is master of it all

Munster Director of Rugby Rassie Erasmus in Castres yesterday. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Munster Director of Rugby Rassie Erasmus in Castres yesterday. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
David Kelly

David Kelly

Rather like their Champions Cup opener, which Munster conceivably could have won as they strode purposefully into the final quarter with a narrow advantage before almost conspiring to lose it in the final moments, the ongoing uncertainty surrounding their coaching situation is all a bit messy.

Manfully, as ever, this squad will plough on as they have done before amidst altogether more feral upset.

Nevertheless, with nobody quite knowing just when their current coach will leave, not to mention when their next one will arrive, it would seem better for all concerned if the province can get their ducks in a row sooner rather than later.

Red tape, in the form of newcomer Johann van Graan's work permit, isn't helping matters so, as it stands, Erasmus could still remain in Ireland until December 31, as his contract allows or, as his new South African employers might desire, he could be gone before the first Halloween bonfire is lit.

After this fitful display, victory is now a must next week against a resurgent Racing 92 but Erasmus is confident that even Van Graan, his untried and untested successor, might be good enough to dig Munster out of a hole should the unimaginable happen in Thomond Park next weekend when Rog and Co trundle into town.

"We don't necessarily have to win next week," he said. "We have to try and win next week. We are trying as hard as we can.

"If he comes in here after a draw and a loss he is the type of guy to sort it out. That's why he is brought in here. We would like to have him in a nice position, a nice soft landing.

"We will try our best, like we did today, and we got a draw. He will get stuck in there and find a way. He is a really good coach."

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How good remains to be seen; for his part, Erasmus, who spoke to his successor on Friday afternoon, is sure about one thing. Munster have got the right man for the job.

"I know him really well. The only involvement was when I was asked for my opinion, like with all the other guys like Dave Wessels. That's where my involvement stopped.

"Even his leaving South Africa, that was pretty well done by Munster to get him out of there because I know he is highly-rated there and I made sure I wasn't involved.

"I have only called him, I think it was on Friday, to say congratulations. Listen, he will bring work ethic, a hell of a lot of experience and he is used to pressure situations.

"He is a guy that coached two weeks ago when they lost 57-0 against the All Blacks and he was one of the guys that tried to turn it around the next week.

"He has won three Super Rugby titles as an assistant coach. He has experience across the range, from attack to defence and he is a very good analyst.

"He is a wonderful attacking coach and he will add a lot to the lineout work that Jerry Flannery is doing. He is the master of all, if I can put it that way."

Quite a build-up for a 37-year-old rookie head coach.

"Yeah, because he started at 23 or something.

"He grew up next to the Bulls rugby field and he worked with guys like Fourie Du Preez and Victor Matfield and those kind of guys for years and years. It is a great character coming to Munster."

Erasmus has no flights planned; a woe he shares with many Irish people this morning as Hurricane Ophelia unleashes fury.

For now, at least, there are no storm clouds in Munster HQ.

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