'A diamond gets formed out of coal when it gets put under pressure'

Rassie Erasmus believes this defeat is part of Munster’s journey.

Murray Kinsella reports from the Aviva Stadium

THOUGH MUNSTER HAVEN’T had to deal with defeat too often this season, Rassie Erasmus comes across as a man who handles it well.

There were smiles in his post-match press conference after a 26-10 loss to Saracens, a refusal to make excuses, and an acceptance that his Munster team are some distance away from Mark McCall’s impressive side.

CJ Stander and Ian Keatley dejected after the game CJ Stander and Ian Keatley at the final whistle. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

But that final part of Erasmus’ honest assessment of today’s Champions Cup semi-final does not mean he doesn’t believe Munster are capable of more in the near future. In fact, the South African director of rugby sees today as part of the journey for the province.

“There’s a saying in South Africa: ‘A diamond gets formed out of coal when it gets put under pressure.’ That’s how a diamond gets formed,” said Erasmus. “If you don’t feel this pressure and you don’t feel it week in, week out and learn how to handle it.

“I really think our players are good enough and I really think our coaches are good enough. I just think you have to get through weeks like this. I can remember when I watched Saracens a few years ago when they lost in the semi and they lost in the quarters and it takes time.

I thought before this game that we were in with a little, small chance but there’s many elements we must improve on. The biggest thing would have to be the mental side, to feel the pressure and when things turn against you, and how to handle that.

“You can handle that against certain teams but against double champions in Europe and the Premiership, we weren’t able to handle that today.

“Tactically, there’s a lot we can improve on. When we had the opportunities we didn’t score because we had a lot of territory in the first half, we just couldn’t convert. Then in the second half, we couldn’t get out of our 22 with the way they applied pressure.

“That was a problem but I thought that it was more a mental pressure they put on us. They squeezed the life out of us.”

It was quite evident that Munster missed their scrum-half Conor Murray against the impressive reigning champions Saracens, but Erasmus was not willing to say it was the difference.

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Peter O’Mahony dejected Peter O'Mahony was concussed in the second half. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Captain Peter O’Mahony suffered a concussion, Jean Deysel fractured his ribs and Tommy O’Donnell was forced off after being badly winded. Challenges for Munster, but Erasmus wouldn’t point to them as decisive.

“I guess if you asked Mark [McCall], he would name four or five players who weren’t available for them today, so it would be stupid for me to say… I think we missed a guy like Jean Kleyn today, we missed a guy like Conor today.

“It was CJ [Stander]‘s first game back, he was supposed to play 40 or 50 minutes but then Tommy got an injury, then when Tommy came off Peter [O'Mahony] got a concussion and then at the same time Jean Deysel fractured his ribs.

“Some of those things did go against us, but the moment you start looking at those things as almost excuses, if I can call it that, it would be a bit stupid because all teams have injuries at this stage of the season.

“The team that played tonight was our best team and our best team tonight weren’t good enough.”

While the outcome at the Aviva was depressing for Munster fans, their support was immense in Dublin and Erasmus said letting down those 50,000 or so fans was the most hurtful part of the day.

“We definitely have pride because we got this far,” said Erasmus. “The reality is, how many teams are there in Europe? 20. We did better than 16 of the teams that played in Europe but we couldn’t go past that final two hurdles.

“The disappointment is more for the supporters. It’s so sad not to give them a win but then we have to be realistic that we’ve built in eight or nine months to where we are. This is the reality, we’re 15 or 20 points behind Saracens at this stage.

“We could have done many things different in this game but I think in the end they would have given us the same hiding as they did in this game. The pride is there because we got so far, but the disappointment is there because we would like to give the supporters something more than that.”

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Murray Kinsella

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