Bleyendaal: “We’re Stronger For This Final”
23rd May 2017 By The Editor
In just over four days’ time, Tyler Bleyendaal will play his first final in the northern hemisphere as Munster look to round off an emotional yet resurgent season with their first PRO12 silverware in six years.
Despite joining in January 2015, injury dictated that fans would have to wait until this season before truly witnessing Bleyendaal’s extensive and exciting playmaking repertoire.
It was worth the wait. Named 2017 Munster Player of the Year, the former New Zealand U20 captain scored 231 points across all competitions, picked up three man-of-the-match accolades, was nominated for European Player of the Year and won selection on the 2017 Guinness PRO12 Dream Team.
When asked to sum up how he feels at this point in time, Bleyendaal commented, “I’m very relaxed here, I feel very much at home.” And this is clearly evident in his style of play – cool-tempered, yet authoritative and assured in all that he does.
A vital cog in the well-oiled Munster machine this season, the Kiwi admits that playing behind such a strong pack has made life as a Munster half-back that bit easier, but also recognises the improvements needed if Munster are to finish this PRO12 campaign with silverware. The loss to Saracens in the Champions Cup semi final was a tough day for all in a red jersey, and Bleyendaal draws parallels between that and Leinster’s loss to Scarlets on Friday night.
“It’s been huge for us. Our forwards have been providing that platform for the whole season, to attack from and to relieve pressure on the team.
“If you get under pressure, sometimes you can’t stop the bleeding and you make mistakes. Sometimes you can’t put your finger on it during those games. Like Leinster, we’ve experienced that.
“It’s tough sometimes. You probably saw that when we were playing Saracens. From our situation I’m hoping that we’ve learned from that and that we’re stronger for this final.”
Saracens ultimately went on to record back-to-back European titles and remained undefeated all campaign. However it was none other than Scarlets who ran them closest with a 21-all draw at Parc y Scarlets – Chris Ashton and the boot of Owen Farrell saving the day with an 81st minute try and conversion.
Leinster had no such saviours on Friday night as Scarlets reigned supreme all game, the Welshmen’s razor sharp attack tearing the Blues asunder early on, giving their hosts an insurmountable mountain to climb.
Just as well for Munster that they hold the best defensive record in the PRO12 this season, but that is sure to be tested come kick-off on Saturday, and as a fellow back, Bleyendaal has a deep appreciation for the Scarlets threat out wide.
“I think they’ve got class from nine to 15 and in their reserves. Their attacking ability, we’ve all experienced that over the next couple of months.
“Any turnover, any counter-attack or just any chance they get to attack on the break, they seem extremely hungry to score tries.”
Munster v Scarlets, Guinness PRO12 Final, Saturday May 27th at the Aviva Stadium – ko 6.15pm.