With less than a fortnight to go before Munster’s crucial Champions Cup Semi Final against Saracens in the Aviva, Rassie Erasmus has given an update on Munster’s injury concerns, notably CJ Stander, Conor Murray and Tylor Bleyendaal.
Erasmsus confirmed that the ankle injury that Stander suffered against Toulouse in their 41-16 Quarter Final win will most likely rule him out of this Saturday’s Pro 12 game at home to Ulster leaving him in a race against time to be fit for the Semi Final.
Stander has been superb this season and his absence would be sorely missed against a physical Saracens side. Having watched Saracens put Harlequins to the sword over the weekend at Twickenham, It is safe to say that Munster will not have faced a challenge like Sarrries this year.
Stander would also have been looking forward to facing up to the Saracens and English No.8 Billy Vunipola with both men vying looking to put themselves foremost in the thoughts of Warren Gatland as he prepares to name his Lions squad next Wednesday.
However, Erasmus provided more encouraging news on the potential return of talisman and leader Conor Murray. The Garryowen man injured his shoulder against Wales in the penulitimate round of the Six Nations and has not played any rugby since.
Erasmus indicated Murray was close to making the weekend’s 10-7 arm wrestle with the Glasgow Warriors but was not risked. However, he did not rule out Murray making an appearance against Ulster. Given the fine form Duncan Williams has been in over the last few weeks, the Corkman might be a safer option with a rested Murray to return for Sarries.
“I don’t think CJ will be ready next week, we are hoping but maybe not; Conor we will have to wait for, he hasn’t got full power back yet but we will see how he is later in the week.”
As for Bleyendaal, Erasmus indicated that the out half would follow normal protocol after being replaced against the Warriors due to concussion.
“Normal concussion, he is now going through the normal procedure.”
Yet, the Director of Rugby was quick to point out the depth of his squad and mentioned a number of players who have stepped up in the absence of others this season. There is now an additional layer of talent capable of stepping up to the mark that did simply not exist previously.
“A lot of guys this year have put their hands up, Dan Goggin, Brian Scott, Darren O’Shea and others. Rory Scannell, remember, was only a youngster last year, Darren Sweetnam is doing well, it’s always nice to see guys coming through who maybe were not well-known names or established players before this season.”
The addition of Jean Deysel looks to be a shrewd move after the South African’s debut against the Warriors where he made an instant impression with his explosive play, whether it be in defence or attack.
“It’s another six or seven weeks of rugby like this, we see there are injuries, like CJ at the moment, a guy like Jean can play lock or a loose forward, so it helps having depth,”
He is one man that could step up to the plate should Stander fail to recover in time.