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23rd Aug 2017

Reaction of Munster fans to Rassie Erasmus’ departure has been remarkable

We're not surprised though

Patrick McCarry

“I must say,” Rassie Erasmus reflects, “the supporters, there must be some out there that really don’t like me now.”

The gradually departing Munster director of rugby adds, “Most of the guys that I have come up to have said stuff like, ‘It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity man’ and ‘Now let’s get the season going’. Everybody is so level-headed about it. I think people see the bigger picture and I thank them for that.”

The South African will take over as head coach of the Springboks in 2018 but, to get his dream job, he will leave Munster with a job started well but very much a work in progress.

Many Munster fans have opted to reflect on Erasmus leading them through a tough, bereavement-tinged season to a PRO12 final and Champions Cup semi-final. It is remarkable but, knowing how much of a rut the province had slid into and the passion of the supporters, unsurprising.

Erasmus says the players have gone relatively easy on him too.

“We were still recruiting as we go along and making sure the squad is in a better place. As you saw, we just got Ciaran Parker in as a tight-head and a young guy, Chris Cloete, from South Africa. We signed him and he is coming in after the Currie Cup is over. Gerbrandt Grobler we got in at second row.

“Those are all guys that, when we were signing I still thought we were staying. Those were the guys that, after they signed, I felt the most guilty. We got them in a room – the guys that were here already – and we made it quite clear to me – ‘We didn’t sign because you coach here, we signed to play for Munster’. I think that’s the spirit and that’s good.”

Players from each of the PRO14 sides pose with the competition trophy.

Erasmus will stick around until the end of 2017 if needed but he is more than happy to step back, and away, whenever Munster get the new management and coaching heads lined up. Asked if the province should consider promoting from within [Felix Jones and Paul O’Connell are two candidates] or cast a wide net, Erasmus says:

“Listen, John Kelly, [Munster chief executive] Garret Fitzgerald… they are grafting. They are busy with this process and they are really taking it serious. The few names that I’ve heard are top, top guys.

“Munster is a massive club. People want to be part of Munster. People seldom leave Munster for another club… if you don’t get fired.

“I think it will probably be a bit of a combination – not that it is my place to say – but I think defence, what I coached and as a director of rugby, there’s a combination of things. So they are going to take their time and make sure those combinations work well. But they are working hard on that currently.”

As for a message to the Munster fans, Erasmus can only think on two words – “Thank you”.

“I know there must be some that are thinking that I’m dropping them halfway into the season,” says Erasmus. “I certainly felt like that.

“I’ve never walked out of a contract, but I’ve never had the opportunity to walk out of a contract into a national contract… but, look, the supporters make the club. New coaches will come in but the supporters make the club. When they see a full Aviva, Thomond or Irish Independent Park in red, the supporters make the club.

“That is why Munster will get, easily, a world-class coach into the club.”

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