Rassie Erasmus sweats on fitness of Munster's stars

Rassie Erasmus is no more than “hopeful” of having a full deck from to choose from when Munster take on holders Saracens in the semi-final of the European Champions Cup at the Aviva Stadium on April 22. 

Rassie Erasmus sweats on fitness of Munster's stars

And he seems reconciled to taking on Ulster in the Guinness PRO12 at Thomond Park on Saturday next without several high-profile players.

International stars Conor Murray, CJ Stander and Donnacha Ryan are doubtful, along with out-half Tyler Bleyendaal and loosehead prop James Cronin. The Munster Director of Rugby expects to have a clearer picture over the next day or two.

“Obviously, we are trying to get CJ and Conor back this week while Donnacha and Tyler will go through the usual HIA processes so hopefully they will pass those tests and be available for Saturday,” said Erasmus. “I don’t think they were among the worst concussions ever seen. I’m nervous for CJ and Conor because they are important players.

“Other coaches, like Mark McCall at Saracens, I’m sure they all have worries about certain players and we are the same. CJ and Conor are world-class players and it would be great to have them available. My gut feeling is that CJ has a better chance than Conor because of the speed of recovery of the two at this stage.

“I am hopeful that for the semi-final next week, both will be ready. It’s a tough call. It’s one of those things where you say they are almost ready and on Monday you play safe only on Tuesday and Wednesday they can look better. CJ has had a scan on his ankle, it’s not the same foot he injured before and I don’t think he’s too bad.

“I’m really positive about Conor. You think about how he almost came back in the Irish game itself and then it was the next week and the next week and the next week... it’s one of those injuries that takes time.

“We would have liked to have him back for the quarter-final but unfortunately he didn’t and if I was asked if he would play on Saturday, I would have to say ‘no’ except that might change on Tuesday and Wednesday. It has really turned into a waiting game.

“The medical people will probably be questioning why I’m talking about these things but when you get a stinger, you have done some damage and I think he did more damage than was initially thought. Conor has done a lot of training with us and that is why we must not get too excited, he passes well now, he has done a little bit of contact, I think it’s very close but unfortunately not yet.

“I hope the James Cronin knock is not too bad. This morning he wasn’t too bad with the medical team but the scan will give us clarity on that.”

Munster will be sure of a semi-final place in the PRO12 should they beat Ulster but will still have to take something from an away game against Treviso and a home clash with Connacht to be at home in the last four. Erasmus made ten changes in his side against Glasgow and will again perform a juggling act on this occasion.

“There are a few niggling injuries and getting the best players fit and on form”, he said.

“We are playing a class team looking for a semi-final place and so we are trying to balance it out. This week I think it will be a mixed bag.”

Tyler Bleyendaal

Tyler Bleyendaal

With Bleyendaal almost certainly ruled out of the Ulster game, Erasmus was happy to report that if Ian Keatley comes through sessions today and tomorrow, he will be available for selection.

“There are so many angles you must look at,” said Erasmus. “I think the best thing is to say ‘let’s go and beat a tough Ulster team’. While we are doing that, other things happen that we can’t control. It is nice to think when we started the PRO12 that we thought ‘let’s just improve and do better’, now we’re in a position with three games to go that we can almost secure a semi-final spot. It’s a positive, but we must still go and do it”.

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