You get the impression from listening to Jaco Taute that the night before Munster meet Toulouse he might well be like an excited eight-year-old on Christmas Eve, writes Simon Lewis.
To say the South African centre is looking forward to this Saturday’s Champions Cup quarter-final at Thomond Park would be to undersell the matter. The 26-year-old loan signing from the Stormers is relishing the occasion and the prospect of a full-on collision of European heavyweights.
“I’m very excited, it’s going to be cool. I’ve had a few similar occasions and it’s going to be all-out warfare, I think. It’s a special game between Munster and Toulouse because there have been finals, there have been knock-outs so they will be coming here to get a scalp at home.
“So it’s going to be all-out warfare, it’s going to be crazy and I can’t wait for it.
“Like I said it’s one of those occasions you want to be part of I think it’s very good for the community because it has been three years since there’s been a quarter-final at Thomond so I think the fans deserve this one and I hope they enjoy it as much as we will enjoy it.”
In his six months since being signed by compatriot Rassie Erasmus on a short-term contract, initially for three months, as injury cover for Francis Saili and Sam Arnold, Taute has brought that sort of enthusiasm onto the field every time he has pulled on the red jersey.
His impact was such that three months became a season-long deal after some hard-headed pleas to the IRFU and the thought that the Springbok might be sitting at home in Cape Town this weekend rather than giving his all for Munster is something the player dare not contemplate.
“I think I would have cried,” he said. “The season has been so great and we’ve been working really hard and we’ve been keeping our feet on the ground but I think the biggest thing is we don’t get complacent.
“We know what to do so I feel it would have been sad not to play or be involved. I’m just very grateful, yes, I count my blessings every day. It’s been a special time so far but it’s not over yet. We’ve got some hard work to do and it’s exciting.”
Going toe to toe with fellow former champions is another reason to excite Taute, who knows all about the history between Munster and Toulouse that spans finals, semi-finals and quarters down the years.
Even some middling form from the visitors, particularly away from Stade Ernest Wallon, in both Europe and the Top 14, has not dimmed the potential for fireworks, he argues.
“All their results have been very close but it’s going to be tough. I know they are lying in ninth in the (French league) table but I don’t think that takes away from the quality of the side.
"They are a side that takes this competition very seriously so they will be coming — it’s like playing against your best mate on Playstation — I get that feeling, the two teams will go hard at each other and they will be coming here to win, definitely.
“I think we all can’t wait for it. we all want to get this week over and we’re probably not going to sleep this week, we’re so excited, but like I said it’s a massive occasion. I think it’s fitting for the community and fitting for the fans and for us I wish this week would be over so if we could play tomorrow; we’d play.”
Taute is keen to stay beyond his initial year at Munster, although that will require more careful negotiation, both between the province and the IRFU, whose rules on overseas signings would have to be overlooked once more should Saili also be required next season, as well as with the Stormers.
“We’ll have to see. I would love to play here but there is still a lot of water to run under the bridge so we’ll take it week by week. I’ve been doing that for the past number of weeks and it’s been paying dividends so I don’t like to look too much ahead into the future, just running out on the pitch and giving it my all.
“I feel like I’ve been playing some good rugby but you have to always raise your standards, never happy and always chasing perfection. I don’t think you will get there but that’s what keeps you motivated and hungry to play your best.
"I’ve been lucky the team has been playing very well and the thing is if you contribute as an individual in a team sport you will always look a bit better. If you focus too much on yourself you will let yourself down and the team and that’s what’s great at Munster and for me as well.”
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