Friday 20 September 2019

'Rassie and Jacques are leaving us in a good position'

Limerick No 2 is showing some top form for Garryowen as he eyes a return to first team

Mike Sherry. Picture: Sportsfile
Mike Sherry. Picture: Sportsfile

Daragh Small

Munster are likely to be waving goodbye to Rassie Erasmus and Jacques Nienaber tonight against Dragons at Irish Independent Park, as Johann van Graan's regime looks set to get up and running in the coming weeks over the international break.

It's a fresh start for the Munster players but they will miss their director of rugby and defence coach that guided them through some very tough times last season.

And for hooker Mike Sherry, he never got to fully appreciate the expertise of the South African duo because of a lengthy injury lay-off, and he knows it was an opportunity missed.

"It's been hard to improve my game because I have had the injuries that had led to long spells out. But I definitely feel my tackling under Jacques has improved and I have a lot more confidence on that side of things," says Sherry.

"My throwing and scrummaging with Fla (Jerry Flannery) has come on a lot over the pre-season. I was rusty when I came back in after a long time out since I played a game. I felt a lot of areas of my game needed to improve and I worked a lot during pre-season to get back up to speed and I feel I am there now.

"Rassie has been excellent for Munster. He came in and there was a very tumultuous year last year with Axel and everything. He has done an amazing job, I would have liked to get more out of it in terms of being coached by himself and Jacques because they are two excellent coaches.

"The one thing the lads have said is that Rassie is incredibly impressive on is getting the team ready through the mindset. He seems to be on point every week and rarely gets it wrong.

"There will be a transition with a new coach coming in, hopefully it will be a seamless as possible. Obviously it wasn't ideal but everyone can understand why they went home. It's just about moving on now. They are leaving us in a good position."

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But despite missing the vast majority of the last couple of seasons, Sherry is enthused about the prospect of working with Van Graan.

The 29-year-old one-time-capped Ireland international has played 95 times for Munster and scored 12 tries, and he believes the young South African can continue the great Munster tradition as they go in search of silverware for the first time since they won the league in 2010-'11.

"We have all heard that Johann is a very nice fella, a brilliant coach, very technical and his rugby knowledgeable is phenomenal so we are looking forward to working with him. Hopefully he can add on to what the two lads have brought which has been quite a lot," says Sherry.

Energy "A young coaching staff, bringing great energy through Fla, Felix (Jones) and Johan. I am sure there will be great energy there, they are not too far removed so I would imagine they will on top of things the same way the lads are and coming up with new ideas and training sessions."

Sherry made his Munster debut against Connacht on St Stephen's Day in 2009 and he captained Munster for the first time against Scarlets four years later.

The Garryowen clubman was called up to the Rugby World Cup in New Zealand as precautionary cover for the injured Rory Best in 2011, and he became a stalwart in the Munster ranks not long after that memorable trip.

He eventually won his first Irish cap against USA in June 2013 but since then injury caught up with him and he never got to double his tally there. "I am coming back from a long-term but it's brilliant to be back fit and healthy, and playing every week whether it's for Munster, Munster 'A' or Garryowen. From that point of view it's brilliant," says Sherry.

"I obviously want to be playing for Munster every weekend but at the moment that is not happening. I just have to start standing out more in 'A' games and for the club, if I want to get in with the Munster team, but I am just delighted to be back fit."

Sherry got married to Katie O'Brien over the summer, and his one-year-old daughter, Georgia, keeps him occupied outside of the busy rugby schedule.

But on the field he continues to compete with Niall Scannell, Rhys Marshall, Kevin O'Byrne and Duncan Casey for the Munster No 2 jersey.

He has only played 38 minutes for Munster this season, but he has starred for Munster 'A' and Garryowen and Sherry is thrilled to be given any avenue back into the senior set-up.

"I was noticeably quite rusty in my first few games. But the last three or four games I felt I am finding my feet again. I am feeling fit.

"It is coming second nature to me. Definitely both of those outlets are a big benefit to me," he says.

"Garryowen have a great squad this year. We had one or two disappointing results but overall it's been quite a positive start to the season. With the 'A's with two good wins in the B&I Cup which always helps if you are playing on a winning team.

"I still feel that I can perform at a very high level. There is a lot of competition there. The lads did well when I was out but it's up to me to force my way back in which I am trying to do, and hopefully I will get the opportunity.

"It's tough with European games and a lot of crucial league games but it's just about getting the opportunity and making the most of it."

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