Erasmus asks Springboks not to compromise him on Munster job

Rassie Erasmus has defended his position in the midst of an apparent tug of war over the services of his touted replacement as Munster’s director of rugby.

Erasmus asks Springboks not to compromise him on Munster job

The former Springbok has found himself caught between his current employers in Ireland and his future bosses at the South African Rugby Union (SARU), as Munster reportedly seek the signature of Johann van Graan, who is under contract with SARU.

It led last Saturday to the curious situation of Erasmus vouching for van Graan’s qualities as a potential Munster boss, while at the same time admitting he would rather be the 36-year-old stayed in his current role as South Africa’s forwards and attack coach in order to work with him on his return home.

Two days later and Erasmus was back in front of the media at the launch of this season’s Champions Cup, which for Munster kicks off a week on Sunday in Castres.

Asked what he would say if the South Africans sought his opinion on whether to keep van Graan in the Springbok set-up, Erasmus replied: “I would ask them not to put me in that position; it would be unfair and I would be compromising one of the two employers.

“That’s why I asked them not to contact me about stuff like this.

“Obviously, I’m currently working for Munster and, if they asked for my input, initially, I would give it to them, because I know most of the guys they’ve interviewed, so that’s exactly why I didn’t want to be in this position, because I would compromise somebody.”

Erasmus has pledged to stay at Munster for as long as it takes to implement a smooth handover to his replacement and he insisted he was not considering any decisions he might have to take in his next role as South Africa’s director of rugby, least of all whether he might have to lead the search for a new forwards coach for the Boks.

“I saw all the speculation and stuff going on there, but it’s people I’m not involved with currently. It’s people whose lives I don’t understand currently.

"It’s gameplans and management teams [and] I don’t understand how they operate, because I’m not there. I’m working here with Munster and fully focused here. If I start putting my eye on the ball on that side, we’ll drop the ball on this side. That was the commitment.

“I read all those things, but it definitely doesn’t influence my way of thinking or working here. I’m not involved there until I work there.”

Nor did Erasmus understand why people might think there was a conflict of interest in his dealings as Munster boss with his next employers.

“I’m not sure why they’d be concerned, because I’m working my arse off trying to help Munster win. If that slacks in any way, there should be a concern.

"If we’re not working as hard and training as hard and preparing as hard, then there should be a concern, but other than that, I can promise you that’s not the case. I’m not involved at any level currently with South Africa.

"I just watched a Test match, but apart from that I’ve got no connection with them currently.”

With no date set for his departure from the province, Erasmus admitted the lack of clarity had seeped into family life in Limerick.

“My children keep asking me: ‘Must we really study this history today, because we’re not going to use this in future.’”

He said his eventual exit will happen “when Munster are happy and have done a proper handover”.

“It’s really been well handled by Munster. All speculation might seem it’s not well handled, but Munster have not been speculating, they’ve got their process in place. When it’s done, we’ll do a good handover and that’s that.”

The Munster chief has more pressing concerns, with an interpro derby looming next Saturday against Leinster at Aviva Stadium.

He is already planning without centre Jaco Taute, whom he believes will be sidelined for months, rather than weeks, with a knee injury suffered in the weekend win over Cardiff Blues.

Springbok Taute left the Thomond Park pitch on a stretcher cart during the first half of Munster’s bonus-point victory on Saturday and was immediately ruled out of this weekend’s Guinness PRO14 derby clash.

He underwent a scan on the knee on Sunday and yesterday saw a specialist, leaving Erasmus to fear the worst, as he looked ahead to potentially season-defining games, against Leinster and Champions Cup pool opponents Castres and Racing 92, in the next three weeks.

“Jaco’s not doing too great,” said Erasmus. “He got that knee, probably a ligament injury. He went for a scan yesterday and he’s seeing a specialist today, but I’m not expecting good news there. He’s the type of guy, if he goes off like that, it won’t be weeks, it will probably be months.”

There was more positive news regarding second-row Jean Kleyn, who missed the Cardiff win with a neck injury suffered in the previous weekend’s loss to Glasgow, but was reported as progressing well alongside fellow lock and neck-injury victim Sean O’Connor, while Ireland wing Keith Earls is in line for his first action of the season against arch rivals Leinster.

Also back in the selection mix is back-rower Jack O’Donoghue, who has completed his head injury assessment return to play protocols following a concussion at Glasgow 10 days ago.

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