Rassie Erasmus has broken his silence on the decision to quit Munster and return to South Africa, but when exactly that will be and who replaces him remain up in the air as the new season approaches.
The director of rugby was quoted at length on the Munster website yesterday and the 44-year old has already initiated the process of stepping back and letting Felix Jones and Jerry Flannery, both of whom are staying on, take greater control of the operation. That includes the approach to recruitment.
“My opinion will be asked if I know the guy, if I coached against the guy,” said Erasmus who is due to return home with his defence coach Jacques Nienaber in December.: “That would be the level of my involvement. I will not be sitting in on any interviews.”
Erasmus explained that there had always been an understanding between him, Munster CEO Garrett Fitzgerald and the IRFU’s performance director David Nucifora that they would not stand in his way if an international job was to come his way.
That possibility became a reality, he said, only in June when South Africa Rugby “confirmed how the newly created position (of Director of Rugby) would work” but rumours of an impending departure had been circulating for some months.
Niall Scannell revealed after Munster lost the Champions Cup semi-final to Saracens in April that Erasmus had already told the players that he would be seeing out his three-year deal and the man himself said the same to the media that same day.
Yesterday, Erasmus suggested that discussions with South Africa had become more serious prior to June but stressed that: “Had I known earlier last season that I was definitely going to leave I would have said so, but to say so then would have been lying.”
The uncertainty and upheaval all this has caused can’t be underestimated - even if Erasmus attempted to play that down.And, though a December departure date has been decided upon, even that is fluid.
“The reason for leaving in December and not the end of the season is that the South African season works differently from here,” said Erasmus who is due at the Guinness PRO14 launch in Dublin today. “In Europe it’s June to May, in South Africa it’s January to November.
“The way the whole conversation went with Garrett and David, it was never a case of Jacques and I staying for exactly six or nine months, or whatever. The priority is finding the right replacement and if that means us staying until October, November or December, so be it, it’s an open discussion.
“I will coach and do my very best for as long as I am here, but if they find a replacement coach tomorrow and say I must go tomorrow, then I will go. Depending on appointments we may leave at different times, him before me or vice versa. December at this stage is the ideal goal as we feel it will give everyone enough time to prepare, but that is open for discussion.”
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