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Dublin: 2 °C Tuesday 19 November, 2019
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Tyler Bleyendaal emerges as a doubt for Munster's Pro12 semi-final

Meanwhile, Rassie Erasmus paid tribute to his backroom staff after winning Pro12 coach of the season.

RASSIE ERASMUS SAYS Tyler Bleyendaal is a doubt for Munster’s Guinness Pro12 semi-final against the Ospreys on 20 May after suffering a bicep injury against Connacht on Saturday.

The influential out-half, who was named Munster player of the year last week, came off the bench during a comprehensive win over the westerners at Thomond Park but picked up a worrying injury in his arm.

Tyler Bleyendaal Bleyendaal picked up a bicep injury against Connacht. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

“He’s gone for scans and stuff today, that’s why he can’t be here. It’s serious enough that he’s had to go for scans,” said Erasmus yesterday in Dublin before the Pro12 awards, before confirming that Bleyendaal is now a doubt to face the Ospreys.

It would be a heavy blow for Munster if Bleyendaal is ruled out, even if Ian Keatley’s form has been good as the back-up out-half this season.

But Bleyendaal has been excellent in the 10 shirt for Erasmus’ side, putting his injury travails of recent years behind him to show his class.

“I think it was more of a mental challenge for him this year, we always knew physically he had it,” said Erasmus of Bleyendaal.

“I know he has a good rugby brain, just like Ian, I’m just glad the injury stayed away. It was always a matter of time with Tyler, if the injury stayed away he’d be a good player.”

Bleyendaal did have a rare off-day in the Champions Cup semi-final defeat to Saracens, however, and Erasmus stressed that the 26-year-old still has progress to make in those types of situations.

“I think he has to go through some pressure times,” said Erasmus. “Although he’s a fairly experienced guy – he played for the Crusaders and New Zealand U20s – I think games like the Saracens game will grow him by 5 to 10%.

Tyler Bleyendaal Bleyendaal wasn't at his best against Saracens. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

“Now the semi-final/final, the more we can put him through pressure situations and pressure games, we’ll see how he gets better. Technically and tactically I think he’s pretty sharp, it’s just when the pressure’s on it’s about how to handle that.”

Meanwhile, Erasmus was last night named Pro12 coach of the season in his first campaign with Munster, having guided the southern province to the top of the table and into their home semi-final against the Ospreys.

The South African was keen to push the praise onto his coaching team, however, underlining how important Jacques Nienaber, Jerry Flannery and Felix Jones have been.

“It’s an honour, but I think it’s a difficult thing to give to one person, because every squad has three or four coaches, and I think I do the least amount of coaching with Felix, Jacques and Jerry,” said Erasmus.

“And the conditioning coaches, everyone there contributes. So I’ll say it’s a coaching team award, that would be the best way to put it. It is an honour, I’ll take it. it’s always an honour to achieve something.

“The Pro12 is an especially tough competition, because it’s intertwined with European cup and you have to have a big squad. There are stages when you get really pushed around.”

Anthony Foley was also important in putting strong foundations in before the season began, with Erasmus paying tribute to the legendary former head coach.

Jacques Nienaber and Rassie Erasmus Erasmus and Nienaber have had a big impact on Munster. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

“I came in as director of rugby, and obviously Axel passed away,” said Erasmus. “So the coaching was more done by Felix, Jacques and Jerry.

“I also coach but percentage-wise, I think 70 to 80% was on trying to put the S&C and medical and technical sides, and then the three coaches.

“When Axel passed away, my role got amplified – if that’s the right word – and that was a challenge. We haven’t won anything yet, but to have a bunch of players who are really adaptable, really willing to change and learn, that helped a lot.”

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Murray Kinsella

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