Rassie Erasmus will not be expecting perfection when he sends his Munster charges into action for the first time tonight.
What the newly-installed director of rugby will be expecting from the province when they face Guinness PRO12 rivals Zebre at Waterford’s RSC (7pm) is that the foundations he and his coaching group have put in place since his arrival from South Africa at the end of June have been taken on board and an effort is made to put theory into practice.
“Certainly, we have yardsticks and if you put it in compartments or departments, you know, from defence to attack, to breakdown to contesting to lineouts, all the different facets of the game,” Erasmus said.
“We have been working hard in isolation on a lot of that and trying to bring it together, bring the puzzle together. Now on Friday it is the first time with real contact (to see that).
“It is not one of your own mates tackling you. It is not just a training session. We will definitely break it down and see how we succeed in the compartments, but you also want to get that winning culture going. We have got definite markers in all departments of the game. We want to see what we have tried and implemented actually come to the fore in the game.”
In naming a 29-man matchday squad for what is the first of two pre-season friendlies before Munster begin their PRO12 campaign at Scarlets on September 3, there will be little chance for any meaningful continuity unfolding before the eyes of the former Springbok. Nor will there be the opportunity for supporters to catch a glimpse of their frontline international heroes.
Conor Murray, Keith Earls, CJ Stander, Donnacha Ryan, and Dave Kilcoyne are much further behind in their pre-season conditioning following their 12-month Test campaign in 2015-16 and under the IRFU’s player management protocols are unlikely to be deployed until the third round of the league. There are also a number of injuries denying Erasmus the opportunity to field anywhere near a full-strength side, with Francis Saili the latest casualty, ruled out for up to four months earlier this week following shoulder surgery.
There will be more immediate returns to action, with little-seen New Zealand fly-half Tyler Bleyendaal expected to finally end his injury-plagued start to life at Munster in next Friday’s warm-up against big-spending English Premiership outfit Worcester in Cork. Peter O’Mahony’s return from a serious knee injury is likely to take a little longer but new signing Jean Kleyn, the 6ft 8ins lock signed from South African Super Rugby franchise the Stormers, may also be set for a debut against Worcester and a potential lineout battle with a certain Donncha O’Callaghan.
For now, though, the players available have the task of staking their claims to future involvement by meeting the standards set by Erasmus.
“Now we have the first game this week so it’s time to deliver on what we have been practicing for the last five or six weeks, so we’re excited about that,” Erasmus said, before explaining what area he had focused on most since his arrival. “Discipline. I am not talking discipline in terms of penalty counts. I am talking discipline with ‘this is what we want to achieve from a line-out, this is what we want to achieve from a maul, what do we want to do now that we are inside the ‘22.
“I think there will be execution problems, because it takes time and it is the first real physical contact session, but I think the game discipline about what we trained in the different departments to actually see that philosophy that we are trying to preach in the different areas of the field actually come to light.”
Meanwhile the Bank of Ireland Munster Senior Cup draw was made yesterday with five-in-a-row seeking Cork Constitution facing UL-Bohemian in the opening round.
Shannon v Sunday’s Well; Nenagh ormond v Garryowen; Cashel v Thomond; Dolphin v Highfield, Old Crescent v Midleton; UL-Bohemian v Cork Constitution; Kanturk v Young Munster; UCC v Bruff.
S Fitzgerald; D Sweetnam, C Bohane, C O’Shea, R O’Mahony; I Keatley, D Williams; J Ryan, N Scannell, S Archer; J Madigan, B Holland – captain; D O’Callaghan, C Oliver, J O’Donoghue.
K O’Byrne, P McCabe, J Andress, B Scott, D O’Shea, D Foley, O Lyons, G Coombes, J Poland, C Fitzgerald, D Goggin, D Johnston, C Nash, S McMahon.
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