Playing way Anthony Foley coached us was priority – Erasmus

Munster rugby director says he is ‘really proud’ of result and players’ performance

Tyler Bleyendaal on his way to scoring a Munster try against Glasgow Warriors. Photograph: Tommy Dickson/Inpho

Tyler Bleyendaal on his way to scoring a Munster try against Glasgow Warriors. Photograph: Tommy Dickson/Inpho

 
MunsterAnthony Foley

would have wanted.

“We would never say we want to win for Axel,” said Munster’s director of rugby Rassie Erasmus afterwards.

“We actually tried our best not to even think that way, because you just think that for a hero and a legend and friend and a father and a buddy and a soulmate, and everything that he was for different people, to put your neck out there and say we’re going to win for you, you can’t put something that’s so important for somebody who has passed away, to say something stupid like that.”

“So we wanted to play the way he coached us, and we didn’t do that for the last few weeks. I think that was not the theme, but the actual reality for the guys, and the belief of the guys. That helped a lot, that the guys really believed that, because we unpacked that during the week and said: ‘Let’s unpack this. Even if we don’t get the result, but how did he want us to get this right? Why didn’t we get it right?’ And I think that kept us focused.”

Second Captains

Asked how proud he felt, Erasmus said: “It’s not so much being proud about the performance or the result, although I am really proud of them both. But we spoke about the detail on what Axel wanted us to get right, the passion Axel had for Munster and the way that he did things.

“And maybe sometimes we didn’t understand how he did things. I’m so glad that came through. It would have been terrible had I sat here after we lost or something like that. And that’s a big thing.”

Awful irony

Of course, the awful irony is that Foley always believed this kind of compelling direct, controlled and accurate performance was in this squad’s ability. “That was his frustration,” admitted Erasmus. “That was his biggest frustration, that he believed so much in the players and he knew what they can do and what they’re capable of but sometimes they were not believing in themselves. That was his frustration.”

“I think the players should take a lot of learning out of this. Myself, take a lot of learning out of this and then if we have performances like that – we’ll never get crowds as emotionally involved as they were today, because this was special, but players should realise that the fans will be here if we play like that and the stadiums will be full and that’s the way we can rebuild Munster to where it was.”

Sympathetic

“But it’s almost understandable in a way. Because it is tough to control your emotions, you could see the way we scrummed and mauled, that there was a lot of emotion in there along with the technique. And then Keith was really up there emotionally.

“He spoke at half-time, what he told the guys at half-time was that we were in the game and we can still win it the way we want to do things. He’s obviously now a bit sad about that but with us getting the win and him helping us through the game, with his input and technical knowledge, he was still part of it up until the end.

I almost understand what he did under the circumstances. I’m not saying it was the right thing to do, I just understand what happened.”

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