Erasmus says he couldn’t pass up Springboks’ offer
Coach adamant Munster’s squad is now stronger than the one he inherited last year
Rassie Erasmus: “Apart from the traditions of the game, I really think the game off the field is almost like any other career.” Photo: David Rogers/Getty Images
Munster coach Rassie Erasmus has said that last season, given the tragic death of former coach Anthony Foley, was much more difficult to deal with than this season notwithstanding the South African’s imminent departure.
Erasmus will leave Munster to take up his position with the South African national side when a replacement coach is found for the province.
“I might go in a week’s time, I might go a month later,” said Erasmus. “When the club is fine, I will go. I cannot just leave the club on a date when it suits me.”
“Teams adjust and teams come through situations like this,” said Erasmus. “What we had to go through last year compared to what we are going through this year, this is a breeze compared to last year.
“And Munster is now working really hard to get the right guy in. Last year, ‘Would Anthony and Rassie be able to work together? How is it going to work? How can they get a director of rugby?’
“I really think last year was much tougher than me leaving right now.”
Erasmus added that he could not pass up the opportunity to work with the Springboks as it is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for him.
The South African, who earned wide respect in Munster for the way he galvanised the team and got them winning in the wake of Foley’s shocking death, also denied he knew South Africa would come looking for him when he first accepted the job from Munster.
The offer to the 44-year-old to become the Springboks Director of Rugby came out of the blue. He didn’t think it would arrive so quickly.
“Yes, that’s exactly why I took it. Without a doubt,” he said. “Listen, there is nothing pushing me away from Munster. There is only something pulling me to South Africa.
“My whole family, my three kids are in school. Jacques [Nienaber] and his wife and his two kids in school. If my plan was just to come for a year, I’m telling you . . . . that’s why the speculation from the beginning was really tough to handle because I didn’t even have a chance to discuss it with my wife or children.”
Erasmus added that it was the way modern rugby is right now, that coaches come and go and that the dynamic nature of moving around is normal. But he is adamant the squad is stronger than it was last year with the addition of new players.
“Here’s Dave Rennie, coming over coaching Glasgow, and Gregor [Townsend] is coaching the [Scotland] national team. And we’ve got David [Nucifora] who is Australian running the high performance here,” said the South African.
“And you’ve got Joe [Schmidt] who is a New Zealander coaching Ireland and who might one day go back to New Zealand. Apart from the traditions of the game, I really think the game off the field is almost like any other career.
“Chris Farrell back, JJ [Hanrahan] back, getting Grebrandt Grobler in and signing Chris Cloete; I just think the squad is so much better than last year, and how we involve the players and the rest of the management team. How could they know that I am going to get an international job?”
One of the Lions who enhanced his reputation, CJ Stander, added that Erasmus gave Munster a voice and that the structures he put in place are solid.
Adding to the company line, the backrow also chimed in that the changeover, whenever it happens, is not as bad as people think and that after a season of trauma, Munster has a core group of leaders.
“What Rassie did was he came in and gave us a voice and a good structure,” said Stander. “What he’s leaving here, someone coming and taking the reins, it’s not going to be a big transition. We’re excited and this is not as bad as you think. The worst thing is walking out on a Friday and seeing Axel and walking in on Monday and he’s not there.”