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Wednesday 20 September 2017

Erasmus admits Saracens are different animal

Munster 22 Ulster 20

Munster’s Peter O’Mahony. Photo: Sportsfile
Munster’s Peter O’Mahony. Photo: Sportsfile

The Munster that just about stumbled over the line against Ulster will get obliterated by Saracens in The Champions Cup semi-final at The Aviva Stadium next Saturday.

This is a country mile closer to fact than opinion.

"Saracens are totally different," said Director of Rugby Rassie Erasmus, in comparing them to their latest victims.

"But in certain aspects of the game, I felt that intensity-wise, it was good,

"The pressure they put on your kicking game, the type of strike runners they have in the backline and the individual brilliance of a guy like Charles Piutau and Paddy Jackson and Ruan (Pienaar), they really tested us and scored some easy tries where we made mistakes."

It was worrying how Ulster cut Erasmus's men open time and again in Thomond from delayed passes on the gain line.

This is one of Owen Farrell's many strengths.

"I'd rather have a game like this against quality opposition," said Erasmus.

"But Saracens will be five steps up. It won't be like this."

Then again, Munster have been so much greater than the sum of their parts since the passing of Anthony Foley and the coming of Erasmus and his defence guru, Jacques Nienaber.

They have tended to do just enough to snuff out the points that have them in possession of a home semi-final berth in the PRO12 League with two matches left.

They will have to play above and beyond themselves to overcome the defending champions Saracens. Munster are one monster game away from their first European Cup final since 2008.

"Obviously, the semi-final of Europe is going to be a different animal," reflected captain Peter O'Mahony.

"These things come around few and far between and we have put ourselves in a position to play in the semi-final of Europe.

"You've got to enjoy the wee. You've got to do a huge amount of work.

But you've got to enjoy doing the work, because these weeks don't come around very often."

Scrum-half Conor Murray is still touch-and-go, with what has been described as a stinger, and his back-up Duncan Williams is battling a groin strain.

Quite simply, Munster will have to have CJ Stander and Murray to hold out a reasonable chance.

It would seem unlikely centre Rory Scannell will recover from a leg injury, leaving South African Jaco Taute and New Zealander Francis Saili to rule the midfield roost.

Wing Darren Sweetnam will follow his return to play protocols from a heavy concussion.

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