If there’s one man that can turn around the current mess that South African rugby finds itself in, it’s Rassie Erasmus.
It’s just a real pity that for them to benefit, Munster have to lose out. But that’s just how it goes.
The 18 months that Erasmus spent at Munster before officially leaving this past Sunday have been so full of memories that it feels like a longer passage of time has elapsed.
When he arrived in Limerick in July 2016, Munster had just been through their worst on-field seasonal performance in the professional era. For the first time in an age, Munster’s seat at the top table of European rugby was in question. Were we a Great House falling into disrepair in the manner of a Toulouse, Biarittz or Gloucester? That was the challenge facing the coaching crew led by Munster’s first ever Director of Rugby.
That we got to the final of the Pro12 and a European Cup semi-final would be remarkable just based on those trifling on-field circumstances. That we managed this turnaround in the aftermath of the death of Anthony Foley is near miraculous.
It’s easy to say that Anthony Foley’s death “inspired” Munster but it could have easily done the opposite without careful guidance by the people in charge. At the time, I remember Erasmus saying that there was no manual for dealing with a situation like that which transpired from October 16th 2016.
Well, there is now – and Rassie Erasmus wrote it.
Emotion is a powerful motivator but without the right guidance or intelligent tactical application of that emotion, you can leave a team vulnerable to catastrophic mental burnout to the point that the entire season becomes a write off.
His management of that period was a stunning achievement.
But he’s not just an emotionally intelligent coach. He’s a technician, an astute tactician and a guy who really upped the standards with regards to how we approached the game.
Erasmus only spent 18 months here, but I really feel that the impact he had here will go on for much longer. Ideally, South Africa would have thrived in his absence to the point that the call to save them wouldn’t be as strong as it was. His country called for him and he could not turn them down. We should expect no less of the man. If the same desperate call came from Munster or Ireland, would you turn it down?
Anyone with love for a red or green shirt, knows what the answer would be in the same circumstances.
Rassie Erasmus’ legacy at Munster should be one of a man who left the province in a better state than he found it.
That’s all anyone can hope to do.
I wish him nothing but luck and glory – as long as it’s not against Ireland.