Thursday 22 February 2018

Erasmus: prowling Cheetahs will bite back

Rassie Erasmus: Expecting to face an improved Cheetahs side. Photo: Sportsfile
Rassie Erasmus: Expecting to face an improved Cheetahs side. Photo: Sportsfile
David Kelly

David Kelly

Rassie Erasmus admits that some of his old friends at the Cheetahs would dearly love to produce an almighty upset by scalping his Munster side in Thomond Park.

"They would love it, yes. I am good friends with them, really good friends with all of them," says Erasmus, a South African embarking on his long goodbye as the visitors continue their lengthy introduction to the Guinness PRO14. "It will be a really tough challenge."

One that should not necessarily detain the Irish side however, especially on the evidence of last week in Ulster when even a modicum of direct, forward carrying caused the visitors to slowly retreat into a tamed stupor.

Erasmus expects the South Africans to improve but any upward graph will hardly happen in time to trouble a side who will hope to add another maximum haul to that eventually eked out in a fitful effort against Benetton in Cork last week.

"They have played seven games already in the Currie Cup. They are playing their second game in the PRO14, so I think match fitness is not a problem and I think intensity and speed would not be a problem.

"They play at altitude in South Africa so the travelling wouldn't really affect them. It's just the small things when you are away, line-outs here get called in a huddle that doesn't happen in the Southern Hemisphere.

"There are a lot of small things that are different that really doesn't change your game but they sometimes surprise you. I think they will fix most of those things from game one for this second game."

They will at least have a recognisable presence at out-half after last week's impersonation by the admittedly fifth-choice, Clayton Blommetjies, who returns to full-back and the arrival of Springbok Francois Venter adds obvious quality.

Munster have much, much more of it though and, although they only make one change to their side - at out-half, where Ian Keatley comes in for Tyler Bleyendaal. Their bench is boosted by a quintet of returning internationals.

Niall Scannell, John Ryan, Rory Scannell, Simon Zebo and Dave Kilcoyne will appear at some stage, the latter joining Andrew Conway in earning his 100th provincial cap.

Venter assumes the captaincy from Neill Jordaan and will start in his familiar position at outside centre. William Small-Smith moves to inside centre and Ali Mgijima will be providing cover on the bench.

Rosko Specman did not pass a fitness test on Thursday and was ruled out due to injury.

Sergeal Petersen switches from full-back to right wing in order to accommodate Blommetjies. Rynier Bernardo will replace Justin Basson at lock with Armandt Koster providing cover on the bench.

Aside from detouring to visit the Cliffs of Moher on their day off this week, coach Rory Duncan has focused his squad's efforts on the troublesome breakdown but they will also need to add heft to their challenge.

"They will settle in and get better and better," says Erasmus, whose departure means that his professional interest with lie with the Cheetahs when the sides meet again next year.

"This week they will be much better, just the referee interpretations, getting used to playing in rainy weather will be a new experience for a team like them."

Verdict: Munster

Munster - A Conway; D Sweetnam, C Farrell, J Taute, A Wootton; I Keatley, D Williams; L O'Connor, R Marshall, S Archer; J Kleyn, B Holland (capt); S O'Connor, T O'Donnell, J O'Donoghue. Reps: N Scannell, D Kilcoyne, J Ryan, F Wycherley, R Copeland, J Hart, R Scannell, S Zebo.

Toyota Cheetahs - C Blommetjies; S Petersen, F Venter (capt), W Small-Smith, M Mapimpi; R Petzer, S Venter; C Marais, J du Toit, J Coetzee; R Bernardo, R Hugo; P Schoeman, H Venter, N Jordaan. Reps: T van Jaarsveld, O Nche, T Botha, A Koster, G Olivier, T Meyer, A Mgijima, R Benjamin.

Ref - B Whitehouse (Wales).

Munster v Toyota Cheetahs, Live TG4, 5.15

Irish Independent

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