Belfast Telegraph

Munster strengthen their South African links


David Kelly

By David Kelly

Even though half a world away, most Munster folk would need a heart of stone not to have been wishing some good fortune for their erstwhile coach Rassie Erasmus this morning.

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And when the dust settles on events in Yokohama, one of the first tasks facing Erasmus will be to prevent one particular occurrence in Cardiff this evening ever happening on his watch when he assumes overall control for the future direction of Springbok rugby.

Two years ago, two players from Erasmus' native land were planning a new life by taking the opposite journey than the then Munster coach.

One of them, prop Kenyan Knox, emerges from the Munster Academy to make his first Guinness PRO14 start for the province tonight.

Erasmus would not be alone in seeking to prevent such a re-occurrence - many within Munster, including venerated figures from the province's storied past, remain discomfited by the practice.

But in professional rugby, teams must gain an edge where they can.

So it is that Stephen Larkham has arrived as a backs coach and, even with a mostly Irish squad, his deft Antipodean fingerprints are all over his side's attacking game.

Ironically, his Irish predecessor Felix Jones seemed to struggle to emit any tune from the high numbered players before his exit.

Still, he has reached a World Cup final, albeit with a side whose restrictive game-plan makes the Munster of Erasmus seem like the Barbarians.

The other overseas coaching recruit, Graham Rowntree, has not yet had as much time to bed in as Larkham; hence the balance of the side has not always been perfect.

But the signs are hugely encouraging, particularly in the seemingly urgent demand for this country to develop an expansive style in response to Ireland's glum World Cup exit.

We should expect more of the same today.

Munster will triumph over Cardiff tonight.

Cardiff Blues: M Morgan; J Harries, R Lee-Lo, G Smith, A Summerhill; J Evans, L Williams (capt); C Domachowski, L Belcher, S Andrews, J Turnbull, R Thornton, S Lewis-Hughes, O Robinson, W Boyde.

Reps: K Myhill, B Thyer, K Assiratti, S Davies, N Williams, L Jones, J Tovey, W Halaholo.

Munster: S Daly; C Nash, S Arnold, D Goggin, A Wootton; JJ Hanrahan, A Mathewson; J Loughman, K O'Byrne, K Knox; F Wycherley, D O'Shea; J O'Donoghue capt, C Cloete, A Botha.

Reps: D Barron, L O'Connor, S Archer, J Holloway, C Oliver, N McCarthy, T Bleyendaal, R Scannell.

Ref: Stuart Berry (SARU)

Cardiff Blues v Munster,19:35, Cardiff Arms Park, Cardiff, TG4, Eir Sport 1

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