David Nucifora, the IRFU’s performance director, and Munster chief executive Garrett Fitzgerald are searching for a new director of rugby after Erasmus handed in his notice to quit in order to return to his native South Africa in a role at the SARU equivalent to Nucifora’s.
There is a December cut-off for the former Springbok’s exit along with defence coach and fellow South African Jacques Nienaber but Erasmus remains in the dark as to when he will actually depart. Yet while he remains in charge, yesterday beginning preparations for the visit of his old club and Guinness Pro14 newcomers the Cheetahs to Limerick on Saturday, Erasmus said he was certain his eventual successor would not conduct a complete overhaul of the foundation blocks he had put in place over the first 15 months of what should have been his three-year Munster contract.
“I think that’s why they’re taking their time. They’re going through a thorough process, and I am only involved to a certain level, but I know it is thorough,” Erasmus said.
“If you come here to this club, you fall in love with the system, it would be hard to let it go backward, I don’t think that will happen.”
Erasmus also insisted he was totally focused on his current role with Munster, despite the major upheaval that lay ahead in moving his family back to South Africa, whenever that may be.
“My children are back in school (in Limerick) and we plan as if it can be another five, six months, until Munster is okay, that’s the agreement; otherwise I would have sent them back (to South Africa) and got into school, because otherwise we’d be asking that question (about a departure date) myself every week.
“I’m not 100% sure how long it will take, whether it will take longer or maybe something shorter but I really made the conscious decision not to worry about that and let it even slip my mind here and there because then you get sidetracked and then you play a bloody important game like this weekend and you’re thinking about stuff like that. So, no, I don’t have an idea.
As to his ongoing focus, he replied: “No, listen, if it was a club where you went away with a sour taste in your mouth or worse, if there was a reason why you’re leaving because something was happening in the club, I think you might lose focus but the club has done too much for me and I’ve gone through too much in the 14 or 15 months with this club that I’m actually over-cautious (not to lose focus)... because when I leave here, that people would say that, or I would feel that myself. I would rather watch them next year play in those finals and think ‘I was part of that’. So, no.
“There’s nothing else I currently have to do in South Africa at this stage so it’s not like I’ve got my head split in two places.” The South African added that he thought both the coaching and playing staffs were still on the same path, despite his and Nienaber’s impending exits.
“I think the bulk of us are nicely in line. And I know the players can see we’re working with a plan to make sure that however this happens, it happens in the best possible way. Because everybody loves Munster, nobody’s trying to nail Munster and that’s why I think it’s easy to do — not easy but easier to do.”
Simon Zebo and a host of Ireland internationals could be set for seasonal debuts this Saturday when Munster attempt to build on their opening bonus-point victory over Benetton Rugby last Friday. The Cheetahs visit Thomond Park for the second round of the Guinness Pro14 campaign and Erasmus is hopeful many of the province’s players who toured the USA and Japan on Ireland’s June tour will be free to face his old club.
“Guys like Rory Scannell and Niall Scannell and Dave Kilcoyne and John Ryan and Simon Zebo, some of these guys are available,” Erasmus said. “We will check out the injuries but these guys are nice and fresh. We are reviewing the videos but some of these guys will be in the mix.”
Yet that boost to his playing resources may well be tempered when his medical staff receive reports back from yesterday’s visits to specialists for injured centre Dan Goggin and lock Gerbrandt Grobler. Goggin failed to finish Munster’s opening Pro14 victory over Benetton Rugby in Cork last Friday, leaving the field on a stretcher with a knee injury. Grobler, signed this summer from Racing 92, hurt his ankle in the pre-season win at Worcester eight days earlier.
Erasmus is bracing himself for bad news from Goggin’s scan: “It’ll probably be a long-term injury on that knee.”