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More to come from Munster but Erasmus proud they keep showing grit

The province’s director of rugby says his team were only at 50-60% tactically against Glasgow.

RASSIE ERASMUS WAS a proud man on Saturday evening in Glasgow, for sure, but he kept coming back to the point that there is more to come from his Munster side.

If the South African’s media dealings are anything to judge by, he is a master of staying on message.

Munster’s CJ Stander  and Rhys Marshall celebrate after the match CJ Stander and Rhys Marshall were all smiles. Source: Inpho/Billy Stickland

Erasmus always brings positivity to what he says – smiling even when talking about Glasgow’s hunger to get Conor Murray “on the ground” after his kicks.

But there is no frivolity to Erasmus’ communication and the smiles are always accompanied by the assertion that there is plenty more to come from Munster. Even after an away win against Glasgow to secure a first European quarter-final in three years, Munster’s director of rugby was keen to point out that improvement is required.

“Well, if you look at tonight’s performance, tactically we didn’t maximise our performance,” said Erasmus.

“We have two left-footed players in the team with Zeebs [Simon Zebo] and Scans [Rory Scannell], we’ve got Tyler [Bleyendaal] and Conor [Murray], and we just sat in our own half and Glasgow pinned us down.

“So, potential is not just individual, it’s strategic as a team and as a management team making and executing a plan. Tonight, probably tactically we were only 5o-60% there, but then again we were 100% maximising our guts.”

There he goes again, finding the positive note to end on after informing us that his team left 40% of their collective potential behind in a crucial fixture.

Erasmus was not looking to pour cold water over Munster’s achievement, but simply sees plenty of room for growth. He believes the province will need to be more clinical if they are to go deep in this competition.

“The defence was good but I thought our breakdown wasn’t great at stages. I thought our tactical kicking wasn’t great and I thought when we did get into their half, we didn’t get the points when we were there.

Munster’s Rory Scannell Erasmus wants Munster to use their kicking options more effectively. Source: Inpho/Billy Stickland

“We were there four or five times in the first half and we only got six points. When the big moments are there, you don’t get a lot of chances and in the quarter-finals again you will only get a few moments, so when you get there you can’t come away without three, five or seven points. So, those big moments in this game almost cost us.”

While always looking for those opportunities to improve, Erasmus did stress the pride Munster feel at returning to the quarter-finals, with this weekend’s home clash with Racing 92 providing the opportunity to secure a home draw.

“It’s a credit to the players and everybody involved in Munster. I don’t want to say that like it sounds like we achieved something already, but as a team one of the targets was to win more games than we did last year.

“I think Axel will be so proud tonight, you know, that we actually went through and we won the pool. We’ll see how far we can get now.”

The aforementioned “guts” and grit Munster are showing is the factor that links everything together this season.

They were not at their best in Scotstoun on Saturday, but Munster had the resilience and determination required to hang in, hammer the Warriors in defence and, eventually, create the winning score.

Erasmus says that grit is coming from the playing group itself.

“It’s definitely not me,” said the former Springboks back row. “It’s a team where… why would you just sit back and hope for something? You put up your hand and try something.

Felix Jones and Rassie Erasmus Erasmus with assistant coach Felix Jones. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

“I think that’s what Peter [O'Mahony] is pushing into the team and I think that’s what all the other coaches are pushing. If you just sit back and hope you will win the game, you probably will lose it, and the guys put up their hands even when they make mistakes. I think it’s player-driven, which is great.”

So much seems to be in place for Munster to continue their scintillating run of results, Saturday being their 11th win in 12 games, and Erasmus will continue to drive his message of improvement.

He didn’t fully know what to expect when he arrived at Munster, but they must be exceeding those thoughts.

“I didn’t know the players well, I didn’t know my assistant coaches well, I didn’t know Ireland, Limerick well.

“We moved into a new high performance centre and that’s why I said at the first meeting that our challenge now is to take what we’ve got as coaches and players and maximise the potential. We’ll see where we get.

“We’ll really maximise that and if we’d qualify for the quarter-finals, then I would have taken it. It’s really a great group of players with great work ethic and I had mixed thoughts about the pool because I didn’t know anybody here before I came.

“It’s satisfying to see that we’ve got quality players and a management team to get us this far and now the challenge is to see how far we can go.”

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Murray Kinsella

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