Rassie Erasmus: I’m sorry we could not reward our fantastic support

Rassie Erasmus admitted yesterday the most disappointing aspect of Munster’s defeat to Saracens in last week’s European Champions Cup semi-final was being unable to reward the near 50,000 members of the Red Army thronging the Aviva Stadium for their fantastic support.
Rassie Erasmus: I’m sorry we could not reward our fantastic support

Erasmus has played international rugby for his native South Africa on 36 occasions but has never experienced the atmosphere created by the Red Army despite the fact the team was being outplayed for most of the second half by a rampant Saracens outfit.

“There always seems to be a next level to a next level,” he marvelled.

“With Axel’s death, that game against Glasgow was amazing and then the quarter-final against Toulouse was even better. They just seemed to step up and step up every single time.

"You wish you can say thank you with a win but if we play Saracens at this stage of our development, we lose eight or nine times out of 10. We are just a little bit off still, we must learn a few things and adjust the squad and then we will get there again.

“In the previous 12 months, there were tougher times than this. It was disappointing to lose but we have a lot of important games to play.

"We haven’t won the PRO12 for a while and we’d like to get some silverware this year so dwelling on losing to the double champions would be stupid. It would be better to see what you did wrong and what you can learn from it.”

No matter how much the coaching team and the players may claim that their morale has not been dented by Saturday’s defeat, that just has to be the case.

Accordingly, clinching a home PRO12 semi-final by winning in Treviso on Saturday when Dave Kilcoyne, John Ryan, Niall Scannell, Peter O’Mahony, Andrew Conway and Tommy O’Donnell will all be rested under the workload management programme and Conor Murray and Jean Deysel are ruled out by injury, is taking on all the appearance of a potential banana skin.

“People may think we have a morale problem but if you look where the team has come from over the last 12 months when everybody said we’d be lucky to get out of that pool, I think the guys are pretty proud with where they have got to from where they came,” Erasmus declared.

“It’s always disappointing to lose any game but the disappointing thing for me specifically was that I would have loved to give that crowd something more but we couldn’t because the other team was better than us.”

Even then, though, he is still taking positives from the game.

“We made 80 tackles, they made something like 160, so we actually did a lot of attacking and kicked the same amount of ball and it’s just that when they got there, they scored whereas we struggled to score because their defence was outstanding,” he stated.

“Two years ago, they lost in the quarter-final to Toulon and Owen Farrell was taken off in the 60th minute. Now, two years later, he’s running the England and Saracens show, he has learned from that pressure and unfortunately we have to go through that.

"It wasn’t that we attacked badly, they were defending really well, they had that mental toughness and that is what it takes to succeed at this level.

“We had a lot of territory and a lot of possession in the first-half. That’s the highest level and they kept us out. There are various reasons for that, I can go into tactical/technical reasons but at the end of the day, their defence was better than our attack.

“So we have to work on that attack. Test match level is like that although I think at Super Rugby level Saracens are probably one of the toughest if not the toughest I have been involved with.

"It seems like all 23 can tackle. No matter what we could have done, Saracens are better than us currently.”

Erasmus also admitted he was “glad” all the speculation about returning home to South Africa to take up the top job with the Springboks had finally been dispelled.

“I told the players seven or eight weeks ago, ‘boys you are not going to hear a definite ‘no’ from me in the newspapers because one day I would like to coach the Springboks if I am good enough and the opportunity is there and if it fits in with everything’,” he declared.

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