Munster 51 - Cheetahs 18: Munster coach Rassie Erasmus has warned against reading too much into the province’s eight try-rout of his native Toyota Cheetahs in a hopelessly one-sided Guinness PRO14 game at Thomond Park on Saturday.
The Cheetahs make their way back to South Africa having conceded 93 points in humiliating hammerings against Ulster and Munster leaving many adherents of the new look PRO14 wondering whether the Cheetahs and the Southern Kings are more of a hindrance than a help in the attempts to upgrade the tournament to a stature enjoyed by the English Premiership and the French Championship.
The competition has been bedevilled over the last five years or so by the dire shortcomings of the Italian duo and what we have seen over the past couple of weeks suggests that the South Africans are little better.
Erasmus, however, insisted that his fellow countrymen would get to grips with the brand new demands being placed on them, maintaining they will especially be a force to be reckoned at home with when performing at altitude on rock hard pitches.
“I can almost guarantee that we will see different results when teams start going over there and when they get used to the travelling and to how referees are handling the breakdown and the scrums”, he declared.
“It’s a massive difference from the southern hemisphere. Let’s give it six or seven weeks and we’ll see how it pans out”.
Given that Erasmus will have returned home to South Africa by the end of the year, some observers may suspect that his loyalties must be automatically drifting away from Munster. Calmly and definitely, however, he dismissed any such notion.
“When we play Saracens, Schalk Burger and Scott Britz are there and they’re my friends but I want to beat them because I’m Munster and they’re Saracens”, he stressed.
“My love is with Munster, it’s Munster I’m working for and my loyalty is totally here so, no, there is no conflict of loyalties”.
The left wing position was a lucrative place for Munster players with the speedy and aggressive Alex Wootton adding considerably to his growing reputation with four tries and Simon Zebo claiming another soon after he arrived on the hour to make his first appearance of the season. Needless to say, Erasmus was impressed with their contributions to the facile victory.
“In Afrikaans, we have a saying, it’s nice when the young dogs get into the neighbourhood and start lifting their legs and showing the old dogs that they are coming through”, he smiled. “Now we have a few guys like that, Fineen (Wycherley), Sean O’Connor, Liam O’Connor, James Hart. So it’s positive and the old guys still have to come back. Munster is building a nice squad, there’s healthy competition. Apart from his tries, I thought Alex did a lot of other good stuff, his tackling, his working with his back three and his work rate was awesome - all apart from the beautiful tries he scored.
“That’s what you want, a lot of guys of real quality. The squad understands that we are going to rotate this year. We didn’t really rotate last year when I tried to put out the best team to see how far we could go in the competition. This year we will take chances and might lose a game here and there but we have to keep guys fresh for 47 weeks. That’s the big lesson I learned last year”.
Erasmus expressed satisfaction with 14 positions, the exception being the second-row where the long term injury to new Springbok recruit Gerbrandt Grobler along with the absence of Darren O’Shea, Dave O’Callaghan and Sean McCarthy leaves them thin on bodies. He didn’t dismiss the possibility of signing a new second-row ahead of the big European Cup games.
Having touched down twice the previous week against Treviso, the formidable Jean Kleyn helped himself to another try on Saturday along with Tommy O’Donnell, Chris Farrell, Simon Zebo and, of course, Wootoon’s four. Ian Keatley kicked the remaining points while the Cheetahs replied with tries by William Small-Smith and Henco Venter, two penalties by Shaun Venter and a conversion by Robbie Petzer.
A Conway; D Sweetnam, C Farrell, J Taute, A Wootton; I Keatley, D Williams; L O’Connor, R Marshall, S Archer, J Kleyn, B Holland capt, S O’Connor, T O’Donnell, J O’Donoghue.
N Scannell, J Ryan and D Kilcoyne for Marshall, Archer and O’L Connor, (all 57 mins); R Scannell for Taute (59); S Zebo for Wootton (60); J Hart for Williams (60); R Copeland for O’Donoghue (64); F Wycherley for Holland (70).
C Blommetjies; S Petersen, F Venter capt, W Smail-Smith, M Mapimpi; R Petzer, S Venter; C Marais, J du Toit, J Coetzee, RHugo, R Bernardo, P Schoeman, H Venter, N Jordaan.
A Koster for Jordaan (27); T van Jaarsveld for du Toit (49); R Benjamin for Blommetjies (55); A Mgijima for Marais (55); T Botha for Coetzee (67); TMeyer for S Venter (72); J Basson for Bernardo (76).
B Whitehouse (Wales).
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