Rassie Erasmus believes keeping Springbok centre Jaco Taute at Munster beyond his short-term contract could be a possibility.
Despite the numerous obstacles which suggest keeping Taute, 25, in Ireland beyond January 1 is little more than a pipe dream, not least the South African’s contractual commitment to Super Rugby franchise the Stormers and the IRFU’s player succession policy, director of rugby Erasmus on Saturday did not rule out trying to turn ambition into reality.
Taute, signed in September as short-term cover for injured All Black Francis Saili and new signing Sam Arnold, has made his presence felt in the Munster midfield, bringing balance in his centre partnership with Rory Scannell and showing his instinct for the tryline with five tries in nine appearances. Two of those came in the 38-0 win over Leicester at Thomond Park on Saturday, underlining Taute’s contribution to Munster’s resurgence this season and more than compensating for Saili’s absence following two separate shoulder operations during the summer.
Saili returned to training last week and is set to make his comeback at Christmas, either against Leinster on St Stephen’s Day or at Connacht on New Year’s Eve, the last game for which Taute is available under the terms of his four-month deal.
Having both Saili and Taute on the books would be a hard sell with the IRFU given their policy of allowing only one non-Irish qualified player per position across Leinster, Munster, and Connacht, never mind in one province. IRFU performance director David Nucifora blocked Ruan Pienaar’s hope of a new deal to stay at Ulster to protect Ireland’s homegrown scrum-half talent and Munster can expect similar reticence over outside centre stocks.
Yet Erasmus looks set to explore the viability of extending Taute’s stay and the fact that Saili’s two-year contract expires in June may have an influence if the New Zealander is considering an exit. Furthermore, during his post-match press conference on Saturday, Erasmus said the Stormers, with Springboks Damian de Allende and Juan de Jongh as well as Scotland new boy Huw Jones among their midfield options, may consider allowing Taute to leave.
“I think there can be a possibility. I think they would be open to try and do that,” Erasmus said. “To be honest I haven’t even gone down that route because Francis is coming back and Sam Arnold is coming back and we’ve got another three weeks to make a decision on that and we’ve got to talk to the Stormers, to the IRFU.
“I’d be lying if I said I didn’t want Jaco to stay.”
Munster captain Peter O’Mahony expressed his wish to see Taute stay, adding: “He is a pleasure to play alongside. He has bought in firmly to the Munster way, whatever that is, he fits in well. Guys enjoy playing with him.
“We’d be happy enough for him to stick around but that’s for a conversation elsewhere. It hasn’t much to do with me, fortunately.”
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