Saturday 18 November 2017

'Taking on the Munster job is a massive challenge but it is one that I fully believe in' - Erasmus

Rassie Erasmus knows time is not on his side Photo: Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile
Rassie Erasmus knows time is not on his side Photo: Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile
Cian Tracey

Cian Tracey

He may barely have his feet under the table in his new job but Rassie Erasmus knows that the demands in Munster mean time is not quite on his side.

Not that the towering former Springbok captain is looking for time. Erasmus has grown accustomed to coping with pressure both as a player and as a coach but, as he ventures outside of the country where he is held in very high esteem, he understands the scale of the task that he has on his hands.

Erasmus with his Munster management team of Anthony Foley, Felix Jones, Jerry Flannery and Jacques Nienaber Photo: Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile
Erasmus with his Munster management team of Anthony Foley, Felix Jones, Jerry Flannery and Jacques Nienaber Photo: Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile

Even before Munster's pre-season began last month, Erasmus had long arrived in Limerick and set about instilling his methods in his coaching staff.

Those methods will be second nature to defence coach Jacques Nienaber, who also arrives from South Africa with an equally impressive CV.

Both have signed three-year contracts but they have much more long-term plans than that and after a disappointing few seasons, there is a real cause for Munster supporters to be excited about what the future holds.


As with every new coaching ticket, there will be a settling-in period but given that Anthony Foley, Jerry Flannery and Felix Jones (Paul O'Connell's expertise will also be called upon) are all part of the backroom team as well as the fact that it is largely the same squad as last season, Erasmus is looking to hit the ground running.

"I think I would be naive to think that if we don't show massive, massive improvements from last year, I don't think people will accept us saying that, 'We are trying hard, we're improving slowly and we'll get there'," he insists.

"If we don't see a massive improvement we'll all be under massive pressure.

"Massive improvement is probably relative but for me, massive improvement is winning more games than you are losing and winning more than you won last year.

"I don't want to have the standard answer of saying, 'Here, we are inheriting a squad'. I don't want to say that.

"I want to optimise the players and coaches we have now to get the best possible results and I don't want to say, 'Next year I will have developed the group because I have worked with them longer.' That would be a normal answer.

"I would say with this group now I want to get the best of them now and get the results as quick as possible."

Music to Munster supporters' ears indeed, but Erasmus is well aware that he has to back it up. The players have already spoken highly of the fresh enthusiasm that he has brought and having spent a half an hour in his company, his confidence is certainly infectious.

"I'm not boasting or anything like that, I don't want to sound like that but when I took the Cheetahs job, they hadn't won for 27 years and we managed to win," he says.

"When I took over the Stormers, they were eighth in the table - out of 12 - and we got to a final a few times. We didn't quite win the tournament, but I think that's why you take jobs. If you only take a job when people retire, people don't believe in you, the other guy's just retiring.

"So it's a massive challenge. I wouldn't take it if I don't believe it. I would be stupid to do it."

The dwindling attendances in Thomond Park are very much at the forefront of Erasmus' mind but, as he explains, that won't change until the mentality on the pitch changes.

"That's fully in our hands, if we don't play well we won't get crowds So, we can beat around the bush with marketing, but if we don't win, we don't get crowds.

"Even if you're really brave when you play, you won't get crowds, but that's something I learned a long ago, and that's something we need to get right.

"I think the players' ability, or willingness to do things to a world-class standard is there.

"If you come to a club and the players are saying, 'What can you teach us, what can you say, what can the new defence coach do, why would you change the education session like this, and why do a training session like this or that.'

"If they're not willing to adapt then there's no chance of doing anything. If the mindset is world-class, they want to be world-class and that is a start.

"To think that because we train that well, we'll immediately do that well in a match, it's almost like it's a given if you know one thing really well, we'll win a match. But there are so many other things that contribute to winning.

"It's not a team talk, a gym session, it's a total mindset of how I think about the game, how I can help my team-mate, thinking like a coach.

"The mentality of helping one another and helping each other. We haven't been in a game situation yet, but it is one of the things that we have to rectify."

There are plenty of things that need rectifying in Munster and Erasmus fully believes that he is the right man implement the changes.

The time for him to prove that he is draws ever closer.

Irish Independent

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