Wednesday 16 January 2019

Rassie Erasmus hopeful O'Mahony and Stander will not follow Zebo out exit door at Munster

Stander is expected to be offered the chance join O’Mahony in Irish rugby’s golden circle after becoming a key figure for the national side. Photo by Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile
Stander is expected to be offered the chance join O’Mahony in Irish rugby’s golden circle after becoming a key figure for the national side. Photo by Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile
Ruaidhri O'Connor

Ruaidhri O'Connor

Rassie Erasmus does not believe that Peter O'Mahony and CJ Stander will follow Simon Zebo out the exit door at Munster.

The Ireland pair are out of contract at the end of the season and the province are on red alert after their star full-back announced his decision to move to France after receiving a whopper offer from Racing 92.

O'Mahony is on a central IRFU contract and Stander is expected to be offered the chance join him in Irish rugby's golden circle after becoming a key figure for the national side.

The Lions have not attracted much speculation, but would be attractive to big spenders from overseas who will have been emboldened by Racing's success in luring Donnacha Ryan and Zebo to France.

But Erasmus believes Zebo's French connections and personality were driving factors in his decision.

"I don't think that's a problem," he said of O'Mahony and Stander.

"I think Simon is an extraordinary talent which will fit into the French set-up.

He's a player that they have been targeting for years and he is extravagant and the way they do it in France is probably a perfect fit, you know.

"We're disappointed but I have to take it like any other job.

In any other job if you get a massive offer like and you can look after your family, he'll probably earn in Racing in three years what he will earn in Munster in nine years.

"So it's nobody's fault. It's the way the professional game goes. It's sad. The boys cried. He's one of our friends and he's one of guys who's not going to play with us next year but what can you do?

"If he gets an offer like that from a massive club, he'd be stupid not to take it so nobody's upset with him. He's sad to go."

Erasmus will depart one part of the world struggling to compete with the Top 14 money for another next month.

There are more than 300 South Africans playing rugby in France at the minute and the combination of wealthy owners and lucrative television deals is making it more and more difficult for other countries to retain top talent. And the former Springbok says all clubs without a benefactor risk losing their best players.

"I think all clubs are currently," he said when asked if Munster were resigned to losing a top player every year.

"All clubs that don't have private owners struggle because obviously there are restrictions and a lot of other things.

"Club players who are selected for Ireland must play in Ireland but it seems to be different when you are playing in France so I just think if you don't have a club owner you won't have those big bucks."

Despite that, he does not expect Munster to lose ground on the pitch despite the disparity on it.

"Racing is currently under us in the table, they've got an owner, the big names, massive guys in their team and Munster seem to find a way to beat them," he said.

"It's not the end of the world. Sometimes the tightness of a team is more important than the names on the team. But I think it is going to become a trend with all clubs that don't have owners."

"Guys are coming through, you get the Darren Sweetnams, the Alex Woottons. Simon Zebo was also once 22, 23 and was a young upcoming star so I always think guys will come through.

"We've got a wonderful academy, Munster always seems to find a way every single time.

"With all this, we are still joint leaders in our pool. The Leicester games will be very, very important, we are still second in our PRO14 pool, we've got 11 players in the Irish national squad which is great.

We shall be challenged against Dragons next weekend because we will be without 11 so I think that's what makes Munster special, you know, the guys just seem to pop up.

"It's going to be tough, if you take our budget compared to Racing last week and you take the names in that team you think how the hell are Munster going to beat that team? But we got it right and it's the soul of the club that is really strong, you know, and I think it always will be."

Erasmus is hopeful that Andrew Conway will escape a ban for his red card for his late, high challenge on Jack Carty in Friday's loss to Connacht in Galway.

"I will be surprised if there is a suspension," he said. "I am sitting here thinking it was a tough call. If you are in the air, you can't disappear.

"The moment the crowd cheers like that and the touch judge puts out his flag and the referees get all excited and then you get calls like that.

"You have to live with that but I'm pretty sure that it definitely was not intentional. I can tell you that it was not intentional.

"If it was dangerous or reckless because he was off balance, he definitely didn't try to put his elbow on the opposition's face while flying through the air. I don't think that was his plan."

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