Tuesday 24 April 2018

Zebo not fazed by Erasmus concerns

Full-back confident Munster will keep on upward curve even if 'class' South African coach leaves

Munster’s Simon Zebo was on hand to launch the Life Style Sports’ Ultimate Fan Experience competition. The unique prize will see the winner secure a seat in the Munster dugout for the club’s clash against Ulster on April 15. See the Life Style Sports Facebook page. Photo: INPHO
Munster’s Simon Zebo was on hand to launch the Life Style Sports’ Ultimate Fan Experience competition. The unique prize will see the winner secure a seat in the Munster dugout for the club’s clash against Ulster on April 15. See the Life Style Sports Facebook page. Photo: INPHO
Cian Tracey

Cian Tracey

If Munster could have hand-picked one player to publicly steady the uncertainty that continues to hover over the future of their director of rugby, then Simon Zebo and his infectious positivity would have been high on their list of preferences.

Erasmus hasn't fully assured the Munster supporters that he will see out his contract until 2019 but from the players' point of view, Zebo insists that the South African has made it clear that there is nothing to worry about.

What exactly that means remains unclear but it certainly wasn't on Zebo to try and make sense of a murky situation that could have been clarified earlier this week when Erasmus had another opportunity to say whether or not he intends to remain with the province for the next two years.

Munster have been outstanding since Erasmus and his right-hand man Jacques Nienaber joined last summer and behind the scenes, the province are doing everything in their power to ensure that he remains in Ireland.

Should Erasmus leave, it would be a body blow to Munster who have turned a corner this season, but in Zebo's eyes, the province are on such an upward trajectory that they would recover.

"Obviously I wouldn't want to see it happen, definitely not, I don't think any player would, but in saying that, it wouldn't be the end of Munster Rugby," Zebo insisted.

"There's a core group of players here, the squad's average age is in the 20s. Rassie has brought a fresh voice and a new lease of life. We've made that transition from being young to grabbing it by the scruff of the neck.

"A lot of the players are on top of their game, so that's really driving us on. He has given us a nudge, a guide of where we need to go, that's been crucial, but there's a lot of players playing really well, so even if he did leave I'd like to think we'd keep that up."

Addressed

According to Zebo, Erasmus has not directly addressed the issue with the players, simply because, as the Cork native suggested: "If there was anything to say, he would have said it. I'm not concerned at all.

"Rassie is a real straight-shooter. We have no issues over speculation we can't control. Whatever has gone on, I'm sure something was taken out of context. That's what happens when you're in a big job or when you are wanted for a big job.

"Rassie has left us in no doubt that there's any need to be worried and that we're on the right path to achieve what we want to achieve.

"I can't comment on him wanting eventually to go back to South Africa, whether that's in 10 years' time or two years' time. He knows we have heard all this speculation and all these rumours and he has assured us that we have nothing to worry about.

"He hasn't brought the matter up with the squad, not really. The senior players' group know what's going on and things trickle down… the organisation is in a good place, we have come on in leaps and bounds as a squad, if he leaves, it wouldn't hinder us as much as is being made out.

"He is putting great foundations in place and the players have really bought into it and are driving it on.

"He's a class act and one of the best coaches I've ever had - how he gets players up for games is incredible and something I haven't dealt with before. His consistency in bringing the best out of people is the best I've ever dealt with.

"If you look at the run we've had -some of the games we shouldn't have won, a lot of that is down to Rassie.

"A lot of the credit has to go to Jacques as well. They're very similar men with great rugby brains and they know how to bring the best out of us."

Zebo has thrived under Erasmus' freedom to play heads-up rugby, and echoed Sean O'Brien's comments earlier this week that the Leinster players feel like they have more of a licence to play compared to what is demanded of them in Ireland camp.

The 27-year-old has had to bide his time to be trusted by Joe Schmidt but he is now a firm part of the Kiwi's plans.

"It's all about adapting," Zebo explained. "I probably wouldn't have played the last year, two years, if I'd done it the way I wanted to - I have to adapt to what a certain coach wants.

"Maybe in the past when I wasn't involved so much... it eventually hit home that I needed to change. It's just a few things - you're playing at a higher level, and every aspect of your game has to be at a certain balance.

"In Ireland camp, there's not any one player you'd go to and say 'You have licence to do what you want' - everyone's on more of a level playing field.

"You just have more licence to express yourself when you come back (to your province). You're with a team you spend the majority of the year with, you know the players inside out."

Zebo epitomises the confidence emanating from Munster at the moment and while there may be uncertainty surrounding Erasmus' future, the players are certain that they can continue their rise back to the top.

Irish Independent

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