Saturday 17 March 2018

Rassie Erasmus to face the hard questions over Munster exit

Munster’s Rassie Erasmus is likely to face questions about his immediate future at the PRO14 launch today. Photo: Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile
Munster’s Rassie Erasmus is likely to face questions about his immediate future at the PRO14 launch today. Photo: Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile
Cian Tracey

Cian Tracey

Timing is everything in life so in that regard it was no surprise to see Munster conduct a straightforward, in-house interview with Rassie Erasmus yesterday - a day before he faces the media for the first time since he announced that he will leave the province to return home to South Africa.

Coincidence? Unlikely.

The news of Erasmus' departure was first broken in these pages on June 19 and 11 days later, official confirmation followed.

The absence of public comment from Munster since then has been notable. Granted, Erasmus was entitled to a summer break but the fact is, Munster have been back in pre-season since June 28, two days before the club announced that the South African would be leaving in December.

Since then, there has been no official media interaction with any of the Munster players or coaches. During Ireland's summer tour, the Munster players were nowhere to be seen in terms of media duties. Even those who were hoping get Felix Jones' thoughts on the matter in Japan were left disappointed.


Munster now find themselves in an unenviable position. While some interviews with potential successors have taken place, not yet being in a position to appoint Erasmus' replacement casts a large cloud of uncertainty for the players and supporters.

There are those who argue that Munster should have seen this coming and therefore should have had a contingency plan in place. But the position in which they now find themselves means that they must take their time in finding the right man for the job.

It was not surprising to learn that Erasmus is no longer directly involved in recruiting players. The 44-year-old went on to admit that he would leave his post tomorrow if Munster find his replacement but the likelihood is that he will remain until December.

On July 14, the IRFU's chief executive Philip Browne addressed the issue at the union's AGM. Browne confirmed the Irish Independent's story that Erasmus had triggered the release clause in his contract, in this case it was nine months.

Browne also revealed that Erasmus notified both Munster and the IRFU of his intention to trigger that clause "earlier in the spring" which cut short his three-year deal after just one season.

But here is where the issue gets a little confusing. In Erasmus' interview yesterday, which can be read in full on the Munster Rugby website, he says:

"In June, South Africa Rugby confirmed how the newly-created position would work and when I spoke to Garrett (Fitzgerald, Munster CEO) and David (Nucifora, IRFU Performance Director) they confirmed they wouldn't stand in my way."

Erasmus continued: "The way the whole conversation went with Garrett and David, it was never a case of Jacques (Nienaber) and I staying for exactly six or nine months, or whatever.

"The priority is finding the right replacement and if that means us staying until October, November or December, so be it, it's an open discussion.

"I will coach and do my very best for as long as I am here, but if they find a replacement coach tomorrow and say I must go tomorrow, then I will go."

However, this doesn't quite tally with what Browne said when he confirmed that - going by the regulations in his contract - Erasmus was obliged to give nine months' notice, which he did "earlier in the spring," and not June.

It is important to point out that Erasmus has generally been excellent to deal with and he has improved Munster immeasurably but somewhere along the line, there has been a breakdown in communication.

Those kind of questions were never going to be answered on the club's won website, but when Erasmus faces the music today at the launch of the new Guinness PRO14 season in Dublin, he is likely to get a more thorough grilling on the details of the timeline.

Irish Independent

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