Rassie Erasmus: Race for No. 10 jersey is wide open at Munster

Munster boss Rassie Erasmus has every confidence Tyler Bleyendaal is about to hit his straps this season but has warned that the number 10 jersey is very much up for grabs.

Rassie Erasmus: Race for No. 10 jersey is wide open at Munster

Bleyendaal, who qualifies for Ireland ahead of the 2018 Six Nations, has struggled with his goal-kicking early in the campaign and his overall performance was below par in last weekend’s Guinness Pro14 win at Ospreys.

The former New Zealand U20 captain will once again lead Munster from out-half in this evening’s meeting of Conference A’s only remaining unbeaten sides when the Irish province travels to Scotstoun to face Glasgow Warriors, but with JJ Hanrahan returning to full training this week in preparation for a second Munster debut, the options for Erasmus are widening.

Ireland U20 fly-half Bill Johnston is also fit once again while Ian Keatley has enjoyed a bright start to his seventh season in red, while a fifth playmaker, Rory Scannell, will be making his first start of the season at inside centre in tonight’s round-four clash.

Scannell will act as cover for the starting 10 with outside backs Jaco Taute and Simon Zebo among the replacements, but the director of rugby remains satisfied that Bleyendaal’s form is not a concern.

“We all go through those steps,” said Erasmus, “and that’s where it’s a matter of time until you hit your straps again.

“When fly-halves make mistakes, that’s fine, but when they stop making decisions, I think that’s a problem. He (Bleyendaal) made a lot of decisions on the field (against Ospreys) and some of them didn’t come off but we hate it when number 10s and 15s and 9s stop making decisions and start hiding.

“For me, as long as he’s making big decisions and if it doesn’t work, it’s a matter of time before it will work because we all know how good he is. And we still beat them, even in that wet weather when one or two of the bounces didn’t go his way.”

Bleyendaal, 27, is yet to find his kicking fluency off the tee and, having missed four of five goal attempts in the opening game of the campaign against Benetton Rugby, he failed to land two penalties and a conversion last week in Wales.

Yet Erasmus said: “I don’t think there’s a massive problem really.

“It’s just hard work and rectifying the mistakes you make in your action or your focus or whatever the problem might be. Again, it’s a matter of time before that comes back.”

Hanrahan, who re-signed for Munster this summer after a two-year stint at Northampton Saints, has recovered from the shoulder injury he had been rehabbing since his return from England and could get some game time with his club UL Bohemian this weekend before he returns to the red jersey ahead of a serious stretch of rugby culminating in the Aviva Stadium clash with Leinster on October 7 and the opening two rounds of the Champions Cup pool stages.

Erasmus has yet to see much of the 25-year-old, who left his native province on Anthony Foley’s watch as head coach, but he believes the Kerryman has the rugby talent to excite.

“We wouldn’t have got him back into the mix if we didn’t. I didn’t know him personally well but the guys like Felix (Jones) and Jerry (Flannery) and those guys played with him.

“To be really competitive until May you have to have positions, fly-half and scrum-half especially, where you have got three guys who can do it. We’re lucky now that we’ve got four guys, with young Bill Johnston also knocking on the door, so while we have this situation we also have to be fair with everybody and try and give everybody a fair chance while winning.

“But without a doubt, he’s got the makings. He’s got the talent and the potential and I think the three fly-halves with young Bill will push one another this year.

“I don’t think anybody can sit back and say ‘hey, listen, it’s my spot’ at this stage.”

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