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Dublin: 13 °C Thursday 18 April, 2019
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Jaco Taute on brink of return to action in boost for Munster ahead of season-opener

But Chris Farrell and Tyler Bleyendaal won’t return any time soon, it seems.

Jaco Taute at Munster training in UL.
Jaco Taute at Munster training in UL.
Image: Bryan Keane/INPHO

FORMER SPRINGBOK Jaco Taute is poised to give Munster an early season boost by returning from the knee injury which has sidelined him for almost a year.

But possible return dates for Irish centre Chris Farrell and former New Zealand U-20 captain Tyler Bleyendaal, both of whom are out of action since February, remain unclear with neither expected back for some time.

Irish scrum-half Conor Murray was not mentioned by head coach Johann van Graan at the weekly Munster press conference in Limerick yesterday morning when asked about player injury updates and when the Irish internationals might return to action.

Murray and the other Irish internationals are not expected back for the opening rounds of the PRO14, with Munster kicking off on Saturday at home to the Cheetahs.

In Murray’s absence, Duncan Williams, James Hart, Jack Stafford and Neil Cronin, younger brother of Irish hooker Sean who was signed over the summer, will battle it out for the number nine shirt with new short-term signing Alby Mathewson.

The return of Taute, either this Saturday or possibly the following weekend away to Glasgow, will be a significant boost to Munster especially with Farrell’s return uncertain.

“Jaco might become available for selection. We’ll see how his game fitness is,” says van Graan. 

“He has come back from a big injury, so it went up and down, mostly very good. With the extent of the injury he has had he is in line with his timing back. A player’s welfare is very important to me.”

Tommy O’Donnell is going through the standard head injury assessment protocols following a knock in the 12-0 loss to Exeter Chiefs in Cork on Friday night and may be available for the game against the Cheetahs at Thomond Park on Saturday afternoon.

“From the other guys who played over the weekend, all of them will be available for next weekend. Then we will have a few guys coming back from injury. Rhys Marshall will be available for selection and Stephen Archer will be available for selection,” added van Graan.

Taute, capped three times by the Springboks, has been out of action since suffering knee ligament damage against Cardiff Blues last September.

He was brought in initially on a four-month loan deal in September 2016 but made such an impact that Munster signed him up to June 2019.

He made 26 appearances in the 2016-17 season, scoring eight tries, and had chalked up five appearances last season when he suffered the serious knee injury.

The return of the 27-year-old would be a big boost but the situation regarding other long-term casualties such as Farrell and Bleyendaal remains uncertain.

Farrell is still recovering from a knee ligament injury picked up in training at the Aviva Stadium last February just days after producing a man of the match display in his Six Nations debut against Wales.

He had made 13 appearances by then for Munster in his first season with the Reds but it remains to be seen when it will return.

“No, nothing new there on the two of them,” added van Graan when asked about 24-year old Farrell and Bleyendaal.

“Chris, because it was such a big knee injury, we are still a long way out. Tyler is improving day by day but it is impossible to tell when he will be back. He hasn’t even trained with the team so I don’t have an update on that.”

Bleyendaal, signed on a three-year deal in October 2014 has suffered an injury-ravaged time with Munster. The 28-year-old  missed his first season with a neck injury, then made just five appearances in the next campaign due to a quad problem.

The 2016-17 season was when Bleyendaal showed his class, captaining the side five times and picking up four man-of-the-match displays in 27 appearances which helped Munster reached the semi-finals of the PRO12 and Champions Cup.

A neck injury against Castres last October ruled him out until February but his appearances for the season were limited to seven when he underwent neck surgery in March which has sidelined him since.

- This article was updated at 7.41am to include mention of Munster’s new signing, Alby Mathewson.

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John Fallon

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