Munster Director of Rugby Rassie Erasmus
AN emotional Rassie Erasmus spoke to the media for the last time on Friday night, following his side's 49-6 win over the Dragons at Musgrave Park.
The former Springbok departs for South Africa in the coming weeks, following his 18 month rollercoaster stint at Munster rugby.
"I will miss the Irish people. It is very hard to leave Ireland and to leave Munster specifically," he said.
"People have been good to us here. To me and my family and to Jacques Nienaber and his family. On behalf of him I would like to thank everyone. He doesn't always get the opportunity to talk to the media. He certainly feels the same way.
"We are staying together for the last week. We are in the same house. Our wives and families have already gone back to South Africa. We had have a lot to talk about and to ponder and sometimes to feel sorry for ourselves and stuff like that."
When asked what he would take back to South Africa with him, Munster's first ever Director of Rugby added that he would bring both on and off the field learnings back to his home land.
"I will bring a lot of things back. On the field, the players certainly showed me what professionalism is. I am sure it is not just a Munster culture, I am sure Leinster, Connacht, Ulster are the same.
"Irish players are super professional. I think they see it as 100% a privilege to play for Munster, but also they see it as their jobs. It is wonderful to work with guys like that. Ireland certainly doesn't have 300-400 players, but it does have 160-180 professionals, so that is why Ireland are competing at the top 2-3 in the World all the time. That is something that is certainly a standard setter for me."
"Off the field, it is definitely the supporters. They are just that, supporters, they are not fans. They support you in the tough times and I would like to be a fan like that. I have learned a lot," the visibly moved coach added.
Asked how he saw Munster's position now, as he hands over the baton to fellow South African Johann van Graan, Erasmus feels that Munster are on the right road.
"Munster are always in a good place. They just had a few bad years. I think one thing which has helped is that Munster have settled in one place, the high performance centre. Things like that are putting the club in the right direction. I thought the coaches being in one centre was vital. We are right in the Pro14 now. Last year we learned that, you cannot win the Pro14 in November, you can only win it in May and I think we are sitting pretty."
Indeed they are. Munster are currently second in their Pro14 conference and are looking ahead to a champions cup double header with Leicester in December.
Sadly for all, Nienaber and Erasmus will be watching those huge clashes from afar.