Will Rassie Erasmus' changes see an instant reward?
The Pro 12 begins this weekend, as all four Irish provinces look to match Connacht's feat from last season in winning the title.
Munster's off-season has been the most intriguing of the Irish provinces. Rassie Erasmus has arrived from South Africa as the new Director of Rugby. Can he help the province return to glory?
The 2015/16 season will not be remembered fondly in Munster. The team missed out on the Pro12 play-offs for the first time since 2013, finishing in sixth place. A spot in the Champions Cup looked in serious doubt near the end of the season, but Anthony Foley’s side had bonus-point wins in their final two games to avert disaster.
Munster’s new arrivals off the field are the most fascinating part of the province’s off-season. Rassie Erasmus joins as Director of Rugby and is joined by Jacques Nienaber in the coaching staff. The South African contingent at Thomond Park has also increased with the arrivals of lock Jean Kleyn and utility back Jaco Taute.
CJ Stander was named the IRUPA Player of the Year, as he helped paper over the cracks, the Munster suffered with Peter O’Mahony’s season-ending injury at the World Cup. The South African-born Irish international has handed the Munster captaincy back to O’Mahony and should thrive without the added pressure that brings.
Stander was in outstanding form for province and country last season. Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/James Crombie
With the arrival of Rassie Erasmus, hopes are high in Limerick and Cork that the team can push forward from last season’s disappointment. A return to the play-offs is a must for Munster, and a strong start is needed to see the crowds return to Thomond.
Darren Sweetnam played nine times for Munster last season, the former Cork hurler could break into the first-team on a more regular basis this year. The winger has already scored two tries in pre-season matches. Cork’s hurling team could be wishing they hard Sweetnam in their own ranks if his rate of progression continues.
8/10/16: Leinster (A)
28/10/16: Ulster (A)
26/12/16: Leinster (H)
31/12/16: Connacht (A)
15/4/16: Ulster (H)
6/5/17: Connacht (H)