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Erasmus asked South Africa not to involve him in Van Graan tug-of-war

The South African insists he is not in a conflicted position as Munster move to take the Springboks’ highly-regarded forwards coach.

Image: Gary Carr/INPHO

MUNSTER DIRECTOR OF rugby Rassie Erasmus says he has asked the South African Rugby Union not to place him in the middle of any staff wranglings as the Springboks, at least outwardly, dig their heels in amid Munster’s interest in Johann Van Graan.

On Saturday, Erasmus was the first to pour cold water on the prospect of Van Graan replacing him in charge of Munster, saying “I’m not sure the Springboks would let him go, he is a really brilliant coach.”

‘Boks head coach Allister Coetzee followed that up with an angry response to questions about Van Graan’s future.

While that’s a ringing endorsement for the man in Munster’s sights, there is a trade-off to be made by Erasmus who will become South Africa’s director of rugby next year. Does he tilt the balance of coaching resources towards his current team, or his past and future loyalty?

Neither, insists the Munster boss:

“I would ask them not to put me in that position, it would be unfair and I would be compromising one of the two employers,” Erasmus responds when asked how he would react if SA rugby asked for a seal of approval to let Van Graan leave.

“That’s why I asked them not to contact me about stuff like this. Obviously, I’m currently working for Munster and if they asked for my input initially I would give it to them because I know most of the guys they’ve interviewed, so that’s exactly why I didn’t want to be in this position because I would compromise somebody.”

Johann van Graan File photo of van Graan. Source: Christiaan Kotze/INPHO

It’s a tough spot for Erasmus who has unquestionably poured every ounce of his energy into improving Munster since his arrival last July. But with the Springboks struggling to climb out of a low ebb that began with defeat to Ireland last summer and reached a nadir with a 57 – 0 loss to the All Blacks last month, the prospect of some coaching continuity in the backroom going into 2018 would be a positive given the constant questions over Coetzee’s reign.

Erasmus is adamant that the conflict of interest does not exist, because he is wholly focused on matters involving the southern province.

I’m not sure why they’d be concerned (about a conflict) because I’m working my arse off trying to help Munster win. If that slacks in any way there should be a concern. If we’re not working as hard and training as hard and preparing as hard then there should be a concern but other than that I can promise you that’s not the case.

“I’m not involved at any level currently with South Africa. I just watched a Test match but apart from that I’ve got no connection with them currently.”

Erasmus, who will celebrate his 45th birthday on Thursday, was widely believed to depart by the end of December. However, with at least one question mark still over the man who will take the baton on from him, Erasmus insists there is a flexibility around the date his employment in Ireland will cease.

“My children keep asking me,” says the former ‘Bok back row with a laugh, “‘must we really study this history today? Because we’re not going to use this in future…’

“When Munster are happy and have done a proper handover (I’ll go). It’s really been well handled by Munster. All speculation might seem like it’s not well handled, but Munster have not been speculating, they’ve got their process in place. When it’s done, we’ll do a good handover and that’s that.”

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Sean Farrell

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