Dragons game on Friday set to be Erasmus’s last as Munster coach
Johann van Graan arrives in Limerick next week to take charge when Pro14 resumes
Rassie Erasmus: Munster have not lost two games in a row since he took charge at the beginning of last season. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho
New coach Johann van Graan is expected to arrive in Limerick next week and he will be in charge when the Pro14 resumes after the break for the November internationals marked by a tie away to Zebre in Parma.
His work permit has not been finalised so Erasmus will remain on standby in case that doesn’t come through in time, or if the new director of rugby wants him to stay on board for a few weeks to help van Graan settle in.
“It probably is,” said Erasmus, when asked if Friday’s game will be his last. “We are definitely not going home on Saturday but with the three-week break and with the timing it looks, barring work permit and those things, I think it might be and probably is.”
Erasmus has been in constant contact with van Graan, who recently spent a week in Limerick, and is confident his fellow South African will settle in quickly.
“We have been in contact since it has been announced and he was here for a week. We have been exchanging emails and telephone calls. I know him pretty well. It won’t be a case that I will be totally off the radar when I am leaving.
“He is coming next week, probably with the Springboks for the Ireland game. We will try and have a chat then, depending on his needs and how quickly he gets the grasp of everything. There is a good chance that I will still be here while he is here as well,” Erasmus added.
Erasmus is not sure if van Graan will be working with the Springboks next week when they arrive in Ireland.
“That is the thing that I am really not sure about. It’s hanging in the air currently but I don’t have the answer. I don’t want to talk on their behalf and I am not sure if Munster know at this stage. I don’t think that has been clarified.”
Erasmus’s reign will be the shortest of any Munster head coach during the professional era and, reflecting on his time in Ireland, he said the death of Anthony Foley a year ago was undoubtedly the most difficult period, while reaching the semi-finals of the Champions Cup was the high point.
“Axel’s death was the saddest, without a doubt the saddest. The week, or two or three weeks, I felt the most sorry for myself, selfishly. I thought that was something to handle.
“But then again, it was one of the times where I learned the most about myself, other people and about other cultures. I wouldn’t say it was a low. It was sad but it was a life-changing experience for me in a lot of things I am doing as a coach. I was supposed to be director of rugby and I certainly adjusted a lot of my thinking and things while that happened. That wasn’t a low, it was a sad time.
“The highs were some games we scrapped through in the dying minutes. Probably getting to semi-final against Saracens was the biggest high. I just felt, Munster belong in the playoff places and not just quarter-finals, getting to semi-finals and hopefully winning trophies. Although we lost that game, it was great experience to get to see so many people in red. And playing in Ireland. I would have loved to win the game but it was a great experience for the team to get from where we were to there.”
Munster have not lost two games in a row since he took charge at the beginning of last season and having gone down 20-16 away to Connacht on Friday will need to take care of Bernard Jackman’s Dragons to continue that streak.
Erasmus, with typical honesty, admitted on Monday in Limerick that he should have changed the team for the game in Connacht, after sending full-strength teams out for four games in a row.
“We decided in the last game we would put out our best side against Connacht. From my side it was maybe the wrong decision. Our last eight games, five of them were on the road.
“Then you play a team like Leinster away, Castres away, with the same team. Then a six-day turnaround to Racing with the same team. Then a six-day turnaround for Connacht who lie waiting for you. They rested five or six of their boys. Then we ran out of legs a little bit in the game physically, as well we were only 14 and got the red card obviously.
“Maybe like last year we mixed it up a little bit when we went there and selected more guys who are on the fringe. We went and grinded out a game there. On two six-day turnarounds, the same team playing three weeks in a row crept up on us a little bit. Then on the form we are definitely not firing on all cylinders. We are going through great patches and then bad patches. We are still joined on top of our pool with Leicester and second in our conference. If were playing so well and not winning games that would have been a worry. But we have to rectify it going forward,” Erasmus added.