Munster coach Rassie Erasmus knew all about his fellow South African Gerbrandt Grobler and so regarded him as the ideal player to fill the gaps left in the Munster second-row by the departures to France of Donnacha Ryan and Dave Foley and the long term injuries to Darren O’Shea and Dave O’Callaghan.
The 25-year-old, 6 ft 7 inch, 19 stone giant from Western Province was duly signed on a one-year contract but then fate intervened and Grobler sustained a serious ankle injury in the pre-season warm up game against Worcester.
It will keep him out of action until the new year and that’s also the the expectancy for O’Shea (shoulder) and O’Callaghan (knee) as all three recover from surgery on their various ailments. It could be that Erasmus will again come knocking on the door of David Nucifora, the Australian charged with managing the affairs of this country’s elite players.
“It’s a tricky one because you’ve lost three guys in one position”, said Erasmus. “You have to go through a process but that has always been a very open one and we never had to play tricks to get someone in. We are a bit under the cosh currently but now our young guys have the opportunity to put their hands up at training and in club rugby.
“A few of them have already done so ... Fineen Wycherley, Sean O’Connor has played two matches now, 80 minutes, and Seanie McCarthy had a club game at the weekend. I know competition gets even tougher but we also have to think about experience, that’s a big thing.”
Two competitive five pointers leave Munster clear at the top of their PRO14 conference and with no serious fresh injuries to worry about. (Though Dave Kilcoyne took a knock to the knee at the weekend that may sideline him for a week or two).
Determined to implement a player rotation system superior to last season, Erasmus rested Tyler Bleyendaal last week but he will be back for Saturday’s visit to the Ospreys.
That promises to be the first serious test of the side although the coach dismissed a suggestion that the first two games were so one-sided as to be little more than training exercises.
“It would be disrespectful to say that of the two sides”, he declared.
“Treviso only lost by seven points at the weekend. And last year they beat the Ospreys so it would be stupid to say that and I know the Cheetahs will do well in time. We know we maybe caught them off-guard or early in the season. Having ten points is certainly a bonus but we don’t at all think we are where we want to be. We know that there is a hell of a lot that we must work on”.
He singled out “concentration lapses” amongst the negatives, pointing out that “when you really have a team under the pump when we had Cheetahs down 22-3 and then you go out and just give away a try like we did.
Big teams with confidence and on a roll hurt you if you let them back into the game like that. There were something like five turnovers at the breakdown. Those are things we must fix.
“On the positive, guys were taking opportunities that presented themselves and didn’t wait for play structures, the scrum was really solid for up to 50-60 minutes, I was a bit concerned about the line-out before the game but it went really well. I think the systems were good.”
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved