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'We said on the pitch afterwards that we aren't going to let this be the full stop'

Simon Zebo believes the best is yet to come from this Munster squad.
Apr 23rd 2017, 7:00 AM 21,791 10

THERE IS MORE to come from this Munster squad, particularly now that Rassie Erasmus has told the group that he will not be returning to South Africa this summer.

The major vibe from Munster post-match at the Aviva Stadium yesterday was realism and while the disappointment at being dismantled by Saracens was very clear, this squad can see that better days lie ahead.

Simon Zebo leaves the field with his son Jacob Simon Zebo with his son, Jacob. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Erasmus has been insistent from the outset of his time in charge that this is a multi-year project which Munster would start by putting good foundations in place. That has been achieved in a remarkable defence under Jacques Nienaber, a reliable maul and a fine kicking game – though those aspects dipped at times yesterday in Dublin.

The main thing on the agenda for Erasmus looking towards his second season will be adding variety to Munster’s phase-play and set-piece attack, which struggled miserably against a world-class Saracens defence.

There will be the usual bitter disappointment over the coming days in the aftermath of defeat, but many on the outside will soon join Munster in the realisation that this is a beginning.

I think we’re at the start of a period together with this new squad that we have and we’re very excited. Today is really disappointing and very, very hard to take as of now, but we know there’s a bright future with this squad,” said Simon Zebo yesterday.

“We said out on the pitch afterwards that we weren’t going to let this be the full stop. We’re really going to drive on as a squad and make sure the future is bright.”

Adding to the pain of defeat to Sarries were a handful of fresh injuries for Erasmus to worry about, with Jean Deysel somehow managing to play on despite fracturing his ribs soon after coming onto the pitch in the second half.

Munster players huddle after the game Munster will drive on aiming for Pro12 glory. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

He now faces a stint on the sidelines, while captain Peter O’Mahony sustained what looked like a heavy concussion and fellow flanker Tommy O’Donnell – brilliant yesterday – suffered a heavy winding that he couldn’t recover from.

Munster’s season rolls on despite their European exit, with a trip to Treviso awaiting them in the Guinness Pro12 next weekend, a competition in which they have very real hopes of claiming silverware.

“There were areas of the game that left us down tonight but we still have a lot to play for in the season,” said Zebo.

Our goal at the start of the season was to be fighting for titles at the end of it. We are one step away but there is a big focus now on the Pro12 and we will fight for that.”

The build-up to this semi-final had seen Erasmus insist that the meeting would Saracens would give Munster a real sense of where they are in their development and it’s obvious that they have a huge amount of work to do to be considered at that same level.

Mark McCall’s side have been on their own particularly journey for well over eight years now and Erasmus takes some encouragement from having seen how the Premiership outfit have grown and improved.

Keith Earls dejected in the closing stages of the game Keith Earls watches the closing minutes from the sidelines. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

Having confirmed to his players that he is staying on beyond the summer, the director of rugby can drive this Munster project on to the next level.

“A lot of things in the game were great,” said Erasmus.

“It wasn’t on the level of Saracens but it was still great. We said at the beginning of the season, ‘Let’s maximise potential.’ And now we know where we are at.”

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Murray Kinsella

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