Erasmus: It's a privilege to coach hard-working 'world-class' Murray
Long before he landed in Limerick to take over as Munster boss, Rassie Erasmsus sought out a meeting with Conor Murray and Keith Earls in South Africa.
The duo took time out from Ireland's summer tour schedule to chat to the incoming director of rugby, who was finishing up his duties with the local union before moving his family to Ireland.
Anyone with a cursory knowledge of the Munster squad knows just how important Murray is to the team, but even though Erasmus had done his research the former Springbok concedes he may have underestimated his first-choice No 9.
When Erasmus talks about his lack of depth in certain positions, it is not much of a stretch to consider scrum-half top of his watch-list. James Hart will arrive next season, but the reality for the former Clontarf scrum-half is that he will be competing for Duncan Williams for the right to back Murray up.
The Patrickswell native is head and shoulders above all of his rivals at provincial and national level and his high level of performance, summed up by his sumptuous chip for Andrew Conway's try at Racing 92 last Saturday, is driving the province's revival.
Coming on the back of his sensational performance in Ireland's historic win over the All Blacks in Chicago, the Lions star's stock continues to rise.
"Apart from the normal things that everybody sees, a great pass and a great box-kick, I think he's a very physical player and I didn't expect that when I came here," Erasmus said.
"Most of those talented guys seem to hold the nice stuff well but he also seems to do the grafting stuff, the tackles, the breakdown ball, carrying and tackling big forwards. The physical side of things definitely impressed me.
"He's almost always available, either for training sessions or matches ... it's not like he's picking his matches like some guys I have coached before who were world-class and the best in their position in the world or contenders. . . they might be minding themselves a little bit more for their provinces.
"On and off the field for us, he's a leader, and it's a privilege to coach a guy like him.
"For the last seven or eight months, I haven't focused on Australian or New Zealand teams, I can only compare Conor with guys I have coached before like Fourie du Preez and those kind of players and I think he'll be right up there with them.
"For sheer potential and commitment and professionalism and size and speed and courage, I think he is right at his prime."
Although things are going well for Erasmus, the work towards strengthening the squad for next season continues apace with Hart, Chris Farrell and JJ Hanrahan all likely to sign in the coming weeks. Erasmus was coy on detail, but said that buying Irish is the priority.
"We are talking to a few Irish-qualified guys," he said.
"Those two (Farrell and Hart) we did talk to and we are busy with some of them and even another two guys. But sometimes for a player on that side, just by speculating before anything is done and dusted, it can ruin a guy's opportunities there.
"It's definitely not finalised and the moment we get done, or if gets done, we will make an announcement.
"It's a case of player depth and where you may be struggling. . . who is coming through your academy system and experience-wise, seeing how many are away on international duty and do you have enough depth
"Then you put your own people out there to help you analyse and making sure the guys will fit into the culture and your plan.
"Obviously we discuss all that with the IRFU as soon as we zoom in on a player. It differs from province to province."
• Connacht have signed centre Tom Farrell from Bedford Blues with immediate effect. The 23-year-old was previously part of the Leinster Academy.
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