Saturday 18 November 2017

Reality for Munster is Springbok spectre will linger over Erasmus

Rassie Erasmus. Photo: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
Rassie Erasmus. Photo: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
Ruaidhri O'Connor

Ruaidhri O'Connor

On Saturday, the one solace Munster fans could take as they journeyed home from the Aviva Stadium was that it appeared Rassie Erasmus had finally put speculation over his future to bed.

According to hooker Niall Scannell, he told players he was staying weeks ago. When asked directly by journalists at his post-match press conference, he finally appeared to give an unequivocal answer in the following exchange.

Erasmus: "We'll be better in a year's time, and two years' time and three years' time. We will be better, but you're right, we have to get more, what is it, strings in our bow? Arrows, more options. We can't just stay with one game-plan and think that will work."

Reporter: "Will you be here?"

Erasmus: "Yes. Hopefully. You mean trying to get the winning culture going?"

Reporter: "In the next few years?"

Erasmus: "Yes, yes, yes, yes."

Reporter: "So, you're definitely staying?"

Erasmus: "Yes"

Reporter: "Is this the end of speculation?"

Erasmus: "I've never been speculating about this."

Since reports of a move by South Africa's rugby union (SARU) to bring their former general manager of high performance back to his homeland surfaced a month ago, this was the most assertive answer he had given.

At last, Munster fans could breathe a sigh of relief and look forward to the future under the impressive guidance of their director of rugby.

Yesterday, they might have spluttered on their cornflakes once more when the latest missive arrived from Munster's press briefing in Limerick.

Erasmus was asked if he was glad a line could be drawn under the issue and said: "I told the players seven or eight weeks ago, 'boys you are not going to hear a definite 'no' from me in the newspapers because one day I would like to coach the Springboks, if I am good enough and the opportunity is there and if it fits in with everything and everything works'.

"I wouldn't like to close the door there. Really if I'm good enough and the opportunity is there I would.

"It has always been the case; the moment anything changes I will come and sit here and say 'guys listen there is something there'. I wouldn't be speculating about those things. So yes I'm glad, I'm glad."

Equivocating

The one consistent message from Erasmus has been that he refuses to indulge in speculation, but by equivocating on the issue he leaves the door open for others to do so.

What seems clear is that he is still coveted by SARU, who chose Alister Coetzee to lead the Springboks in 2016, a decision that led to Erasmus' move to Munster after he was overlooked.

If Coetzee was doing well, then perhaps the noise coming from South Africa would dim but it has been a disastrous year in charge for the former Stormers coach.

He appears to have ridden clear of the calls for his head this time, but a poor June will bring it all down upon him again.

Erasmus is making plans for next season with Munster and has a three-year deal, but he has revealed that there is a release clause in his contract and has never wavered from his ambition to coach the Boks.

So, it seems Munster fans can relax a while but must resign themselves to the idea that they will one day lose their prized asset to his homeland and they will have little control over his departure date.

Irish Independent

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