Table talk: Why Rassie Erasmus isn’t focusing on pool permutations

Rassie Erasmus will spend the next 48 hours discussing the shape of his squad for next season and considering how to negotiate the rest of a current campaign that sees Munster in a strong position in Europe and the league.

The province arrived home from Leicester with a losing bonus point that keeps them just two points behind Glasgow Warriors in Champions Cup Pool 1 having played a game less than their Guinness Pro12 rivals.

Munster play Racing 92 home and away in January either side of a trip to Scotstoun. But, before that, the league leaders have derbies with Leinster on St Stephen’s Day at Thomond Park and Connacht in Galway New Year’s Eve.

Yet there are pressing issues director of rugby Erasmus and his coaches must discuss as the South Africa seeks to further shape the squad his way. Former Ulster centre Chris Farrell’s switch from Grenoble is a done deal awaiting official confirmation and reports suggest scrum-half James Hart is also on his way from Racing after six seasons in France while fly-half JJ Hanrahan is strongly linked with a return home from Northampton Saints.

All three names in the hat would significantly boost Munster’s attacking threat in a backline set to welcome back All Black Francis Saili, while summer signing from Ulster Sammy Arnold is only returning to match fitness.

And then there is the future of Jaco Taute to discuss. The Springbok’s loan from the Stormers is set to end on January 1 after four successful months in the Munster midfield as injury cover for Francis Saili, and both parties would like to extend his stay.

There are several hoops to jump through with Erasmus needing the consent of both the Super Rugby outfit and the IRFU, with the governing body needing to make an exception to their Player Succession Policy if the South African is to be allowed to stay alongside fellow non-Irish-qualified centre Saili.

IRFU performance director David Nucifora, who refused to sanction Ulster’s request to keep scrum-half Ruan Pienaar beyond his current deal, will need some persuading Taute, 25, is not restricting the advancement of homegrown midfield talent and the Munster think tank will this week discuss whether they can win the argument.

Taute has added value in his short time at Munster, his three tries in three European games as well as his Test experience with South Africa helping the province into a strong position in Pool 1. Their losing bonus point allied to Racing’s back-to-back defeats by Glasgow made the best of a disappointing weekend in Leicester and the Parisian side’s early elimination suddenly makes the rescheduled visit to Stade Yves Du Manoir a little less daunting given their like change in priorities back to the Top14 campaign.

“Getting six points out of two games against Leicester home and away, didn’t we get zero last year? So it’s an improvement,” Erasmus said.

“Honestly, we’re really trying not to look at that (pool situation). We’re really trying to look at different departments of our game. We can look at the table and wish this happened or that happened but at the end of the day we must start back on Tuesday and say ‘how did the scrums go, how did the kicking go, how did the defence go, or the breakdown go?’ If you start looking at the table you just confuse yourself.

“Like this game, if we only look at the scoreboard and say if they missed that last kick we had a wonderful game. We can’t just look at the scoreboard, we must look at our different things. It’s an interesting pool. I don’t think two teams will qualify.”

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