Chris Cloete has stressed the importance of staying positive this week as Munster prepare for a final push for silverware this season in the Guinness PRO14.
The Reds welcome interprovincial rivals Connacht to Thomond Park on Saturday evening with both sides having earned a place in the end of season play-offs.
Munster have a home quarter-final in the bag as they are assured of second place in Conference A, 12 points clear of Connacht going into this weekend’s final round of league games but they can still claim a home semi-final if they beat their neighbours while league leaders Glasgow Warriors, three points ahead of Munster, lose at home to Edinburgh.
Last Saturday’s European semi-final defeat to a dominant Saracens side in Coventry, however, could threaten to cast a shadow over Munster’s ability to finish the season in style and win a first trophy since 2011.
The comprehensive nature of the English club’s superiority in a 32-16 loss for Johann van Graan’s side, handing them a third successive defeat at the Champions Cup last-four stage, could threaten to derail the entire 2018-19 campaign and Cloete, a travelling reserve last weekend at the Ricoh Arena, has underlined the necessity to bounce straight back this weekend with a morale-boosting performance.
“I think the most important thing is that we come back positive and we start from there,” the South African openside flanker said.
We fell short this year in the semi-final and Saracens really played well. They came out on top and that’s the bottom line.
“I think we need to be coming back positive, excited to get back and hit the ground running for the next game.”
Cloete, 27 and in his second season at Munster, admitted it was easier said than done to turn the page on a demoralising semi-final defeat.
“I don’t think it’s easy to just get over a loss like that. You work so hard throughout the year to get to a semi-final. The guys have to make a quick switch. It has to be positive and we’ll go from there. We still have some silverware up for grabs at the end of the season.
“It’s always difficult but we’ve put it in the past already, we’ve still got a PRO14 final to be won and hopefully everything will go our way.”
Cloete was forced to watch the Saracens game from the sidelines having lost the number seven jersey to a fit-again Jack O’Donoghue but he insisted personal frustration had to be set aside for the good of Munster.
You buy in as a team at the end of the day and if you don’t play, you don’t play, you support the guys that are playing. It is a bit frustrating because you really want to do what you can do but at the end of the day this is a team sport, it’s not golf. So everyone’s there to support each other as hard as we can. At the end of the day, if the club wins a cup we all win as a squad. That’s probably the most important thing.
Beating Connacht in the final round of league action this weekend will provide a meaningful springboard into the knockout rounds but Cloete is wary of the impressive season the western province has enjoyed under new head coach Andy Friend and the tense nature of derby matches.
“Definitely the interpro games are very close games. They’ve beaten Ulster home and away and their set-piece and attack has been really good.
“It’s going to be a really tough game, a very close game but Thomond Park is always a special place to play. We haven’t lost there since December ’17 and I think it’s going to be a really good game.”