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'There must be some supporters that really don’t like me now'

Rassie Erasmus has spoken about his departure from Munster at this morning’s Pro14 launch in Dublin.

Erasmus addressed the media this morning.
Erasmus addressed the media this morning.
Image: James Crombie/INPHO

Ryan Bailey reports from the Aviva Stadium 

THE LAST TIME Rassie Erasmus addressed the media in the bowels of this stadium, he moved to draw a line under the speculation over his future as Munster’s director of rugby. He was staying, case closed.

Only that wasn’t the case.

A little under three months later, Erasmus was back in Dublin for the launch of the Guinness Pro14 season with another huge cloud of uncertainty hanging over the southern province and their new campaign.

The one certainty in all of this is that we know Erasmus is definitely leaving Munster to return home to take up a role with the Springboks. When? That remains to be seen, with the 44-year-old admitting he could step aside if a replacement is found before his scheduled December departure, which was announced in June.

Since then, Munster have kept as quiet as possible, not hosting any media activities during pre-season in a bid to avoid the inevitable questions.

Erasmus had to face those questions this morning.

After the Pro12 final defeat to Scarlets at this ground, Niall Scannell said that the players had been told you were staying for at least the second year of a three-year contract. What changed?

“I think Niall was caught off-guard,” Erasmus explained. “After we lost, at the media conference they asked me how we lost and I said we had to accept Scarlets outplayed us. That’s how far we had came or evolved in just 10 months. One of the guys [journalists] asked me if I could take the evolution further and I said ‘yes’ because at that stage, I didn’t engage with South Africa Rugby [Union]. My take was one day we’ll see.

“Niall, in the online interviews, one of the guys [journalists] came up to him and said ‘Rassie is staying’. He replied ‘yes.’ I had always been honest about telling them I’m staying. That chat was I’m staying but one day.

Rassie Erasmus Erasmus has triggered the release clause in his contract, which was nine months. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

“It was only asked of Niall and he had got the message that I was staying. The players have been informed from day one. We have daily meetings and they know what is going on in my head.”

Erasmus then explained how he told the players of his decision to leave.

“It’s a process that has been ongoing. All the speculation that was there generally, which was just speculation really. We have a monthly communications meeting where everyone is involved. I said you’ve seen all the speculation and I can tell you it’s not true because it is not true, I didn’t even engage at that stage.

“People were just speculating about this but like you guys want to play for Ireland and the Lions one day, I want to try and be involved in the Springboks. That’s what I told them [at the end of last season]. I said it was speculation but one day it might come and all the players that were there when I told them, they said ‘all the best, hope you do well.’ Like I’m glad when they play for Ireland, they’re glad for me.

“It’s not an ideal world but we went through much tougher days last year than we’re going through currently.”

The outgoing director of rugby then addressed Munster’s supporters and thanked them for the support they have shown for him throughout this whole process and their reaction and respect for his decision.

“I must say, the supporters, there must be some there that really don’t like me now. But most of the guys that I have come up to have said stuff like, ‘It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity man’ and ‘Now let’s get the season going’.

“Everybody is so level-headed about it. I think people see the bigger picture and I thank them for that. And I think Munster players are special in that regard. The new guys which we signed — we are still recruiting as we go along and making sure the squad is in a better place.

“As you saw, we just got Kieran Parker in as a tighthead and a young guy, Chris Cloete, from South Africa. We signed him and he is coming in after the Currie Cup is over. Gerbrandt Grobler we got in at second row. Those are all guys that, when we were signing I still thought we were saying. Those were the guys that, after they signed, I felt the most guilty.

Launch of the 2016/17 Guinness PRO14 Season Players at this morning's Guinness Pro14 launch. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

“We got them in a room — the guys that were here already — and we made it quite clear to me. We didn’t sign because you coach here, we signed to play for Munster. I think that’s the spirit and that’s good.

“My first word [for the supporters] would be ‘thank you’ because most of them have been saying get stuck in there and have a good season, have a good transition or hope you go better than last season. Or congratulating me on the new job, hope it goes well and ‘one day we might see you back’. That was the vibe most of the time.

“I know there must be some that are thinking that I’m dropping them halfway into the season. I certainly felt like that. I’ve never walked out of a contract, but I’ve never had the opportunity to walk out of a contract into a national contract. I’m sure most coaches would look at that and back that but, look, the supporters make the club.

“New coaches will come in but the supporters make the club. When they see a full Aviva, Thomond or Musgrave Park in red, the supporters make the club. That is why Munster will get, easily, a world-class coach into the club.”

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