Rassie Erasmus has admitted Munster cannot afford to retain both Jaco Taute and Francis Saili for next season and their respective futures with the province will be decided in the coming days.
Munster were last December given special dispensation by the IRFU to extend short-term signing Taute for the remainder of the season. The South African centre had joined as injury cover for Saili and has kept the New Zealander out of the starting line-up since his recovery from two shoulder operations. Yet both players will be out of contract at the end of the season with Saili, believed to be Munster’s highest earner, linked to a number of English clubs and Erasmus will be under pressure to reduce the number of overseas signings in line with the IRFU’s player succession policy for homegrown talent.
Speaking after Munster’s 50-14 thumping of Connacht, in which both featured, Saili scoring a second-half try off the bench, Erasmus said: “We all know there are only so many foreign spots we can fill. First thing, if we had the money, we would like to keep everybody. We don’t have the budget to keep everybody.
“We have to adhere to those guidelines which we will and then the thing is affordability. Do we have the budget? It’s definitely not a case whether it’s Jaco or Francis because Jaco covers 15 for us which he has done quite a few times. Jaco is actually helping out at 13 when he is more of a 12.
“They play two different games. We have to sort it out the next 14 days to make sure but it’s not one or the other. It’s who we can afford.”
Munster have already signed three Irish-qualified backs, scrum-half James Hart joining from Racing 92, fly-half/centre JJ Hanrahan returning from Northampton and another centre, Chris Farrell from Grenoble.
“That’s the first thing we are looking at, quality Irish qualified guys,” Erasmus said. “It doesn’t help to just bring in a guy because he is Irish qualified. He must be quality. I really think Chris Farrell, JJ Hanrahan and James Hart will bring a lot to the party but then again, you see how a guy like Angus (Lloyd) performed today at nine. Duncan (Williams) during the season. Ian Keatley today. That’s more headaches for me. I need to make the right decision for the club.
“We are very far down the line, maybe 80 or 90% but another 20%to go. The next week is probably the big one to get all that admin sorted out.”
Asked if fly-half Keatley, 30 and out of contract next month, had a future with Munster following his man of the match performance against Connacht in his 150th appearance for the province, Erasmus replied: “Look, if we can afford to have three (out-halves — Bleyendaal, Hanrahan and Keatley) plus Bill Johnston coming through, that’s a privilege Saracens have. If you look at Racing and Leinster. They can have three.
“That would be great but can we afford? That would be the biggest challenge with our budget. We are trying to make it work.”
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