Munster boss Johann van Graan insists he is committed to improving his existing squad as the province bids to win silverware for the first time in eight years but that will be without South Africa centre Jaco Taute, who was unveiled today by Leicester Tigers as a new signing for next season.
As Munster pick over the rubble of a third successive Heineken Champions Cup semi-final defeat having been humbled by Saracens in Coventry on Saturday, Taute, 27, joined Leinster back Noel Reid as a new signing at Welford Road after finding game time limited under head coach van Graan.
Taute is calling time on his stay Munster having been signed on a short-term contract in 2016 by Rassie Erasmus. That soon became a permanent deal but with Erasmus gone, opportunities under van Graan have been scarce and the former Springbok has made just three starts this season in only nine appearances as he has fallen behind Rory Scannell and Chris Farrell as well as Dan Goggin and Sammy Arnold.
Taute made an impression on Tigers head coach Geordan Murphy when he scored two tries against his side for Munster in Europe in 2016 and the former Ireland full-back said: “We’ve obviously seen Jaco close-up in European competition and he is a big, physical unit in the backline with extensive experience in the southern hemisphere and also at the top-end of European rugby.
“He is an option at centre or at full-back for us and we look forward to welcoming him in the pre-season period.”
Taute said he was excited to join Tigers and play in the Premiership, adding: “Leicester has a rich history and I want to contribute to creating even more memories for the fans at Welford Road.”
WIth Munster boss van Graan stating it was unlikely the province would be making signings this summer in the wake of the 32-16 semi-final defeat to Saracens, today he committed to improving his existing squad for next season’s European campaign, though he insisted the team was more immediately concerned with this Saturday’s home PRO14 clash with Connacht and the play-off series that will follow it.
“It means improving what we have. The positive is that all the players who we wanted to keep at Munster are staying for next season. Everybody bought into the vision, not only my vision but the club’s vision.
"We’re more than just a rugby club, we’re a club for the community and that’s the most important thing, you saw that on Saturday afternoon once again."
“We want to improve. We want to get into a European final, we want to get into a PRO14 final and we want to win silverware.
“We’ve got to just keep on going, week by week. The most important thing is this week against Connacht, looking to bounce back and put in a good performance at home and then take on the next week.
“We’ll do our after-season review and start planning again for next season. In terms of the S&C and medical department, all those plans are already in place but in terms of the game, we’ve just got to keep evolving and keep improving.”
“Obviously disappointed that we didn’t get the result but no excuses from our side. We gave it all we got but it wasn’t good enough.
“Now it’s all focus on the PRO14, we’ve got Connacht up on the weekend, an interpro derby. The last one was a really tough game and they’re playing some good rugby. They’ve also qualified for the finals series already so we’re looking forward to that.”
Munster will return to training on Tuesday in advance of the weekend’s Thomond Park interprovincial clash with the medical focus on Dave Kilcoyne (ankle), Joey Carbery (hamstring) and Keith Earls (thigh), all of whom will be assessed and monitored throughout the week.
“We’ll take our time, most of the players are only back in tomorrow so we as a group will meet up again tomorrow morning,” van Graan said today.
“Joey we’ll assess day by day, just as we’ll do with Earlsy and as soon as they’re ready we will pick them. They are our starts so as soon as they become available I’ll pick them.”