‘Munster must aim for world class’ says new director of rugby Johan 'Rassie' Erasmus

If Munster Rugby have not already realised it, incoming director of rugby Johan “Rassie” Erasmus expects every facet of the setup to behave, think, and play in a world class manner.
‘Munster must aim for world class’ says new director of rugby Johan 'Rassie' Erasmus

Erasmus, 43, yesterday set out his vision for the underperforming province as he met the Irish media for the first time in Limerick since leaving his high-profile role in South African rugby to take up the challenge of returning Munster to their glory days.

To become the Reds’ first director of rugby, he left behind a job as South Africa’s high-performance manager, overseeing every aspect of the Springboks’ structure from the Test team down.

He will need every bit of his experience as Springbok flanker, Super Rugby coach, and top-level administrator to deliver.

Dwindling crowds and financial woes are by-products of the malaise after two seasons of failure to reach the knockout stages in Europe’s Champions Cup, but Erasmus knows they only way to get things on track and then start bringing silverware back to Thomond Park is to effect improvement on the pitch.

Asked what he expected of his new charges from the word go, Erasmus’s response required no second-guessing as to the direction he expects his players to move towards.

“If there’s a standard way of doing things, and that is world class, then you say, ‘Do we train world class? If we have an education system is it world class?’ said Erasmus.

“It’s easy to say we want to win so many games, we want to win a cup, but some teams do it with a bit of luck and they’re nowhere after that, so if you can bolt that world class mentality, if you do everything world class…

“Look at each individual thing and if they are world class the result will come.

“Some things we do outstanding here, some things we do that are average, which I think we’ve seen some improvements so far, but a lot we’ll have to work hard to get right.”

From what Erasmus has seen in his first month of working with the bulk of the Munster squad and, more recently, the internationals who returned last week following Ireland’s tour to South Africa in June, the players’ mentality is already one of those world class elements he desires.

“I think the players’ ability, or willingness to do things to a world class standard — if you come to a club and the players are, ‘What can you teach us, what can you say, what can the new defence coach do, why would you change the education session like this, and why do a training session like this or that?’... if they’re not willing to adapt then there’s no chance of doing anything. The mindset is world class, they want to be world class — that’s a start.”

And the average things Erasmus mentioned? Well, it is making that mindset whole and consistent across every aspect of their professional lives.

“To think that because we train that well, we’ll immediately do that well in a match, it’s almost like it’s a given if you know one thing really well — we’ll win a match — but there are so many other things that contribute to winning,” said Erasmus.

“It’s not a team talk, a gym session, it’s a total mindset of how I think about the game, how I can help my teammate, thinking like a coach. The mentality of helping one another. We’ve not been in a game yet, but it’s one of the things we have to rectify.”

Erasmus has been at Munster since the end of June, starting his three-year contract by conducting a think-tank with his new coaching setup.

He has brought former Stormers and Boks defence coach Jacques Nienaber with him, and retained Anthony Foley to work on lineouts and breakdown, and scrum coach Jerry Flannery, while also bringing in former full-back Felix Jones as an attack and skills coach.

“I made sure that when we started on the Monday, we didn’t see the players for the first two weeks, we just sat and said, ‘Listen guys, we have to align our coaching for the rest of the year, we have to be 100% right.’

“Everybody presented on their specific area and the other guys could shoot holes into that and say ‘that won’t work’ and then we all worked it out and agreed.

“So it won’t be a mixture, if I can put it that way. Now it’s what we had as players, what has worked for us in the past, what has worked for Munster in the past and reduce that to where can we get to.

“Then we gave it to the players and said ‘let’s have a bash out here’ and now we’ve been coaching it that way.

“I think it will always be evolving but I can’t tell you we’re not going the running way, the kicking way, the conservative way. In certain facets of the game we’ve got certain principles and hopefully you can see when the matches start that that’s the way the guys are going to play.

“It’s tough to stand here and say ‘we’re going to run’ or ‘we’re going to be conservative’. If you ask me how we’re going to counter-attack, how we’re going to scrum, or what are we going to do from lineouts, how are we going to defend, we can get into detail on that, but we actually blocked it like that and saw each facet through.”

Erasmus is hoping that combined coaching ethos can have an immediate impact on a side that was not only eliminated after the European pool stages but also failed to make the Pro12 play-offs and needed a last-day victory to scrape into the top six and qualify for this season’s Champions Cup.

“Target wise, I would be naive to think if we don’t have a massive improvement on last year, I’m not naive enough to think people will say, ‘Oh we’re trying hard, we’re improving slowly, don’t worry, you’ll be there’... I’ve been there and if we don’t see a massive improvement we’ll all be under pressure.

“Massive improvement is probably relative, but for me it’s winning more games than we’re losing, and winning more games than last year.”

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