Another season has ended for Munster without silverware but there is definitely cause for optimism for the 2018/19 season.
A full pre-season for Johann van Graan and JP Ferreria should hopefully see improvements on the pitch while they will also welcome back players such as Jaco Taute, Chris Farrell, Chris Cloete, Tommy O’Donnell and Tyler Bleyendaal whose absence was definitely felt in the business end of the season.
They will also welcome players such as Tadhg Beirne and Mike Haley to the squad for the new season. Ultimately though, next season will be one where progress will need to be made and there will be a lot of pressure as a result.
Conor Murray, who is now on a break before touring with Ireland for the upcoming series against the Wallabies in June, spoke to The Left Wing podcast about his season and he revealed how he felt when he knew Rassie Erasmus and Jacques Nienaber were to depart the club.
“I found out in the summer after a long season ending with the Lions tour, in the summer when I just genuinely wanted to forget about rugby for a few weeks, it was just a long, stressful time of year,” Murray said.
“An unbelievable year but it’s still quite long. I found out, I don’t know how, a text message or a phone call off someone and I was very pissed off, selfishly pissed off because we got two great coaches with Felix and Fla working with themselves as well, we started something good because the run we had last year was great and then they’re gone.
“In my own head I was like ‘ugh, again,’ this is the third or fourth time I’ve changed coach with Munster since I’ve been here and when are we going to get a run of consistent coaching where we can build on something though season to season. Not have to come in a new pre-season, get to know a new playbook, a new coach, his philosophy, all that kind of stuff. At the time I was really pissed off and everyone else was. I think we had a full right to be.”
Erasmus and Nienaber finished up their time with the province last November and at the same time, Johann van Graan took over head coaching duties, while new defence JP Ferreria arrived a few weeks after that.
It’s never an ideal situation for a new coach to come in with little time to implement his ideas but as Murray reveals, this was something that Van Graan had realised and instead, slowly implemented ideas without throwing everything else out the window.
“Then Johann came in and in fairness, he was really good with the way he dealt with us, he had a lot of ideas he wanted to implement, same with JP Ferreira, he wanted to implement things in ‘D’.
“We also had ways of playing and systems in place that Rassie and Jacques had given us and we believed in them and wanted to continue with them. It was really difficult for them to come in midseason and change things but I thought they did a really good job, they didn’t change much, they slowly implemented a few new things that they liked and kept a lot of the stuff that we had been using which got us through a certain place this year which is positive.”
Munster will hope that a full pre-season for their new coaching ticket will yield dividends next season.