Denis Hurley and BJ Botha exit as Munster trim squad

BJ Botha and Denis Hurley headlined a list of departing players from Munster as plans for life under incoming director of rugby Rassie Erasmus continue to take shape.

The two veterans, along with wing Gerhard van der Heever, scrum-half Cathal Sheridan, back rowers Shane Buckley, and the previously announced Jordan Coghlan have all played their last games for the province.

Both utility back Hurley, a Heineken Cup winner in 2008, and former Springbok tighthead prop Botha have been struggling with injuries suffered in the January 9 defeat at Stade Francais, and Hurley used social media on Monday night to declare his Munster career was at an end, a decade after his senior debut against Llanelli in Stradey Park.

Hurley, who played 166 times for his native province and scored 16 tries before a calf injury shot down his season, was the most capped player in this season’s squad and aside from his Heineken Cup winners’ medal, he also collected two Pro12 titles in 2009 and 2011. He captained Munster seven times and was honoured by his fellow professionals in 2015 when he has nominated for the IRUPA Unsung Heroes award.

Hurley’s Instagram account provided a poignant farewell with a picture of the Corkman holding his baby daughter and walking out onto the Thomond Park pitch after Munster’s Pro12 win over Scarlets on Saturday evening.

“One last walk out,” Hurley wrote. “My wife nabbed this pic after the end of season game on Saturday. I had our baby girl in my arms to get a pic together on the pitch. A moment she will never remember but both of us will remember for many reasons.

“All the memories this pitch has given us over the years & it culminated in a quiet moment for us to savour as a family. Happy to have played out my dreams here but now a new challenge awaits and we’re excited about what may lie ahead.”

Munster will also miss Botha’s front row experience, which saw him signed from Ulster as a replacement for John Hayes in 2011 having been part of the Springboks’ 2007 World Cup-winning squad.

The South African, 36, made 111 appearances before a ruptured ACL ended his Munster career, although the province’s efforts to retain his services in the face of the IRFU’s quota system on Non Irish Qualified players underlined his importance to the organisation.

Botha’s compatriot van der Heever, 27, made less of an impact during an injury-hit spell after signing from Western Province in 2013 with Super Rugby experience under his belt with both the Bulls and Stormers. The wing made 29 appearances, scoring six tries.

Like Hurley, both Buckley and Sheridan were products of the Munster academy and they were members of the Munster A squad that won the British & Irish Cup in 2011-12.

Former Rockwell College student Buckley made eight appearances for the senior Munster side having made his debut in September 2014 while Sheridan played his first senior game a year previously and made 35 appearances.

The Sligo-born scrum-half has also been widely praised for fronting IRUPA’s mental well-being campaign “Tackle Your Feelings”.

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