Rassie Erasmus on Ospreys – “They throw something new into the mix every game. It’s going to be a tough assignment.”
Munster face their first away encounter of season in the Guinness PRO14 this coming Saturday when they take on Ospreys for the first time since last season’s league semi-final win.
With two rounds played Munster and Ospreys, who both play in Conference A, lie in first and fourth respectively. The Irish province have recorded two bonus point victories, while the Welsh side had an opening day win over Zebre but tasted a heavy defeat in their second outing of the campaign away to Glasgow Warriors.
Munster boast an impressive away record heading into Saturday’s tie, having won on each of their last eight trips away from home since losing to Leinster at the Aviva Stadium last October.
However, the Thomond Park outfit have found it difficult in their last two trips to to the Liberty Stadium, securing wins in both by a two-point margin.
Director of Rugby Rassie Erasmus is no stranger to facing the Welsh side, having faced off against them 3 times last season, the departing boss says he is finding it hard to figure out what way Steve Tandy’s side will approach the game.
“We played Ospreys 3 times last year. They’ve got the same coaching staff. When you analyze them you can see how they vary it up. They’ve got so many different options with guys playing 10 and 15 and different loose forwards. They throw something new into the mix every game. It’s going to be a tough assignment.”
Erasmus also believes that last week’s loss will have Ospreys craving a home win, and expects his side to be under more pressure on Saturday.
“It will only get tougher, and we’re playing away from home. After last week’s loss against Glasgow, now at home they (Ospreys) would like to recify that. Without a doubt we’ll be under more pressure.”
Munster will be looking from three wins from three this weekend following impressive victories over Benetton and the Cheetahs. Rassie is looking to build on the positive aspects of those wins.
“You look at the positives first and try and keep them going into the next game. Apart from the obvious things that everybody sees, I think the players really took some nice opportunities when it presented itself.
“You don’t have to always execute the gameplan one hundred percent to get opportunities sometimes it just presents itself and you use your skills to take it. We would like that to flow into pressure games too. It’s easy to take it when you’re 20-30 points up.”
The South African also picked out some negatives from both performances and hopes to improve upon them as the season goes on.
“We weren’t as accurate at the breakdown, here and there there were some concentration lapses after half time, (leading to) a simple try, that wasn’t even something spectacular, there were just two missed tackles. To keep the concentration and don’t let a team like the Ospreys get an easy 7 pointer or they’ll put you away.”
So far this season academy graduate Alex Wootton will have given Erasmus a selection headache on the wing when all of the province’s International players return. He agrees that his squad are stronger this year and says that competition within the camp can only be good.
“Not just to rely on when the Conor Murray’s are back and the Keith Earls’ and Peter O’Mahony and CJ Stander. They can be injured any day and the next guy must step up. The moment you start pushing International players for places, that creates a healthy squad environment, healthy competition and you’re battle ready when it comes to the big games. Sometimes you don’t have the players, but I think that this year our squad is a bit better.”
With facile victories over Treviso and the Cheetahs behind them, this weekend will be a real marker of Munster’s progress and the evolution of the current crop. For the backroom staff it will provide valuable feedback as to how their work in the off season has paid off. One thing is for sure, Ospreys will be provide a stiff test and one which the Munster players will certainly relish.
Ospreys v Munster, Guinness PRO14 round three, Saturday September 16th at Liberty Stadium – ko 3.15pm.
This game will be televised live on Sky Sports and TG4.