The season is its infancy but already there are positive signs that Jaco Taute and Chris Farrell are developing into a formidable centre partnership for Munster.
Admittedly the games against Benetton Treviso and the Toyota Cheetahs were one-sided affairs but Munster fans will hope for more of the same when the pair come up against the Ospreys at Liberty Stadium and Glasgow Warriors at Scotstoun over the next 10 days.
Nevertheless, Taute has maintained his impressive form of last season while Farrell’s more predictable game appears to suit him as against the play-it-as-it-comes approach of last year’s partner Francis Saili.
“Yes, Chris is a quality player,” Taute enthuses. “He played very well in France in a losing team at Grenoble. I studied a number of his games before he came just to see what type of player he is so we could get the best out of him. He is a lovely fella, so too is Rory (Scannell) and so are the centres who are coming out of the Academy. As with almost every position in Munster, the competition for places is considerable. We still have a lot to build on and I think we haven’t found each other yet.
“There is always room for improvement, but I love playing with Chris. He is a very balanced player. Playing inside him is about creating as much space for him as possible. It is all about putting him into space as a second five-eight, putting him into positions where he can use his strong running ability.”
Taute enjoyed last weekend’s victory over the Cheetahs more than most.
“I played against them several times back home and it was just nice to play against a few fellow South Africans over here. There are certain aspects of the game that are different. For me, coming here last year for my first season, there were a few areas you needed to adapt to. I don’t want to give away too many secrets where we knew we had to put pressure on them but they will get used to it, they will learn quickly. I think it (teams from South Africa) is good for the competition, I think it brings a new enthusiasm to the Pro14. Last week was a very enjoyable game for me and I think the team enjoyed it as well.”
Taute is now at the outset of his first full season with Munster having arrived originally on a short-term contract last season. He was due to return to South Africa on New Year’s Eve but Rassie Erasmus was so impressed with his contribution on and off the pitch that they worked out a deal to keep him until the end of the season before negotiating a two-year contract.
It is unlikely that any of this would have happened had Taute not genuinely loved the atmosphere in Munster and dearly wanted to stay, a point he unashamedly made with statements like “I think I would have cried had I missed it,” before facing Toulouse in the European Cup quarter-final. As for playing at Thomond Park he remarked “I don’t think you can ever get used to that feeling. It’s absolutely insane, any player who plays a game can feel that atmosphere and can feel the crowd. It’s a special place.”
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