Munster are light in midfield with a shoulder injury ruling out Francis Saili for four months and reports from South Africa suggested Rassie Erasmus had all but captured the three-times capped Taute on a five-month deal. The province’s Director of Rugby secured the signature of Western Province and Stormers lock Jean Kleyn earlier this summer but that has been it in terms of high-profile signings as the new man looks ahead to his second pre-season game in charge, against Worcester in Cork on Friday.
“Until I’ve really worked with the players, it would be foolish to just bring in guys for the sake of it,” said Erasmus at yesterday’s Guinness PRO12 launch at Dublin’s Aviva Stadium. “Jean was a guy I worked with so much and I think is world class.
“There is some stiff competition there with Donnacha (Ryan) and Billy Holland and Darren O’Shea. There’s quite a few young guys coming through. They’ll be in the 26 or 28 we play this weekend. They’ll have a chance and have to take their chances.”
Erasmus isn’t averse to fishing in other waters for players but the onus right now is on “optimising” the talent already under his wing and he seems at ease about the sometimes convoluted realities of working with the IRFU.
“The disappointing thing about Francis Saili was it was unexpected. He was on the road to the best form of his career. If we knew about that three or four months ago, from the IRFU side and from our side, we would have plans to make sure we had a plan in place. My relationship with (IRFU high performance director) David Nucifora is top notch. I was in that position with SA Rugby where I had to manage players and those with important problems had to manage that. So I totally understand where he is coming from.”
As for Kleyn, he will be given his first chance to impress against Worcester and Tyler Bleyendaal is on course to join him in the matchday squad having seemingly recovered from a quad injury that limited the Kiwi to five appearances last season.
Second-row Dave Foley is also available having recovered from the back spasm but one man who won’t be taking any active part this week, or for the bones of the next month, is Johnny Holland.
The out-half has undergone a second scan and seen a specialist about his long-standing troublesome hamstring. That will be frustrating for Holland who will have noted how Darren Sweetnam was the first of the younger brigade to make a major play for a key role under the new regime with his striking performance and two tries against Zebre.
More youth will get its fling.
“He was man of the match last week,” said Erasmus. “Yeah, he is (ready), for sure. From 18 to 21 people say players are too young and then, at 24, they say he’s not going to make it. So they give him from 21 to 23, which is weird for me. You must give him sufficient time, coaching confidence, teammates, leadership. He’ll make mistakes but he’ll learn. He won’t learn that by not playing. Where will he learn that? At training sessions? The few games he plays with the ‘A’ side against not so great opposition?
“He will only learn that by getting on the pitch.” Erasmus described that first 17-0 win as solid rather than spectacular but has clearly been impressed by the hunger for knowledge among a group that will for the first time be housed together in the one central training base at UL in the next week or two.
“They wouldn’t just do a training session or a video session or an education session without really wanting to understand that,” he explained, “and I think that’s something that is brought over from the great Munster era.”