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'This has been the best 18 months of my life': Rassie Erasmus bids emotional farewell to Munster

“I will treasure these days for the rest of my life,” says Erasmus.

Image: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

AN EMOTIONAL RASSIE Erasmus said that his time in Ireland was the ‘best 18 months of my life’, as the curtain came down on the reign of Munster’s sixth lead coach in the professional era.

Erasmus, the province’s first Director of Rugby, fought back tears as he recounted his short time in Munster following Friday night’s 49-6 drubbing of the Dragons in Cork.

He took over in the summer of 2016 with Munster in struggling through a period of transition, but happenings on the field were made irrelevant in October when head coach Anthony Foley died suddenly in Paris on the morning of their opening Champions Cup game against Racing 92.

Erasmus paid tribute to everyone in Munster for the way they handled the tragedy and after his final game— his 42nd in charge – before he returns to take charge of South African rugby, he said this was a period of his life he would never forget.

I will treasure these days for the rest of my life. And the performance was wonderful to sign off with.

“I’ve definitely enjoyed my time here. This has been the best 18 months of my life, not just in rugby. I have learned so much from Irish people.

“I will miss the Irish people. It is very hard to leave Ireland and to leave Munster specifically. People have been good to us here. To me and my family and to Jacques Nienaber and his family.

“On behalf of him I would like to thank everyone. He doesn’t always get the opportunity to talk to the media. He certainly feels the same way. We are staying together for the last week.

“We are in the same house. Our wives and families have already gone back to South Africa. We had have a lot to talk about and to ponder and sometimes to feel sorry for ourselves and stuff like that.”

Erasmus said that he would take a lot with him back to South Africa after his first period coaching outside that country, and he believes both Munster and Irish is a good place.

“I’ve learned so much here. The players have showed me what professionalism means, the Munster culture is amazing. It is a privilege for them and not just their jobs.

Rassie Erasmus arrives Rassie Erasmus pictured ahead of Munster's European Rugby Champions Cup Round 1 clash against Castre Olympique. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

“Irish sides all have that, they may not have 400 players but they have 160 quality players and that is why they set the standard.

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“The supporters here are passionate always support you in a tough time and I would like to be a fan like that. I’ve learned a lot.

“I will bring a lot of things back. On the field, the players certainly showed me what professionalism is. I am sure it is not just a Munster culture, I am sure Leinster, Connacht, Ulster are the same. Irish players are super professional.

“I think they see it as 100% a privilege to play for Munster, but also they see it as their jobs.

“It is wonderful to work with guys like that. Ireland certainly doesn’t have 300-400 players, but it does have 160-180 professionals, so that is why Ireland are competing at the top 2-3 in the World all the time. That is something that is certainly a standard setter for me.

“Off the field, it is definitely the supporters. They are just that, supporters, they are not fans. They support you in the tough times and I would like to be a fan like that.

“I have learned a lot,” added Erasmus, as he choked back the tears before he headed back into the Munster dressing room on Friday night for the last time.

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