Rassie Erasmus denies special treatment for Jaco Taute
Decision to extend Springbok’s contract based on injuries in backline, says coach
Paul O’Connell coaching career got underway as he helped oversee a Munster development XV victory over an Ireland under-20 selection in Thomond Park. Photograph: Tommy Dickson/Inpho
Head coach Rassie Erasmus has rejected suggestions that Munster might be receiving preferential treatment in their efforts to hold on to South African centre Jaco Taute.
Taute’s short-term contract expires after their game against Connacht on Saturday evening but an extension is almost across the line with the centre.
Taute was drafted in as cover when a pre-season shoulder injury ruled out former All Black Francis Saili, who returned in Monday night’s win over Leinster.
Taute, capped three times by the Springboks, has been outstanding for Munster but his contract extension has raised eyebrows in other provinces, not least in Ulster where they are set to lose South African scrumhalf Ruan Pienaar at the end of the season.
Ulster had hoped to extend his contract but the move was blocked by the IRFU on the basis that it was impeding the pathway of indigenous Irish players.
“Well, I’m not sure what the other provinces’ cases were,” said Erasmus after training at University of Limerick on Thursday.
“Our one is a simple one. We got an injury, we got a stand-in and now we’ve got some more injuries so that’s how our one has been presented. I think it’s a very valid reason to try and do that. I can’t comment on the other guys.
“I wouldn’t know the other specific cases and how it’s being treated. I wouldn’t know exactly what’s going on. It’s for us, injury cover, which we’ve used and now we have some more injuries in the back three.
“It would be very stupid for me to comment on what the other guys do because I’ve only been here for four months. I’m not sure what the other issues are. And, as I say, we still have to sort out a few things before that’s a definite.”
And with ever-present winger Darren Sweetnam set to be out for a number of weeks, Erasmus is glad to have a player of the South African’s quality available.
“We’ve got a few days to finalise that. We really have some bad injuries now. Darren Sweetnam is out for a while. Then Alex Wootton and Bill Johnston, we lost him for a while. The nice thing about Jaco is that he’s played fullback at provincial level and actually was in Springbok camps as a fullback.
“He’s got 90-plus games in the back three so that would help us if he could stay on and I think we’ll find a way. It’s not done yet.”
Erasmus said that Sweetnam, who was injured when he was tackled without the ball by Zane Kirchner in Monday’s 29-17 win over Leinster, could be out for two to three weeks but it will not be known for how long until the result of a scan clarifies the position.
Sweetnam had played in all 17 Munster games this season but Erasmus said they would not be pursuing the incident any further.
“Well, it’s one of those things. Yeah, unfortunately but it could have happened anyway. Nothing is going to change now. It’s just unfortunate because he was in such nice form. Things like that happen. He’s young, he’ll get over it and come back better.
“I think he featured in every training session. He’s been unbelievable. Listen, things like that happen. It could have been much worse. I don’t think it’s a horrible injury. Hopefully not too long. He’ll handle it. He’s a tough guy.”
Andrew Conway may yet feature against Connacht after an elbow injury was not as bad as initially feared.
Meanwhile, Paul O’Connell’s coaching career began on a winning note at Thomond Park yesterday. He was assistant coach to a Munster development XV which beat the Irish under-20 side 35-21, running in five converted tries.