Gerbrandt Grobler has spent more than a week at the eye of a storm, amid outcry at Munster and Irish Rugby's decision to give a contract to a player who has served a two-year ban for doping.
Peter O'Mahony, Conor Murray, and Johann Van Graan all supported their player in public, saying that he has served his time and deserves a second chance, a sentiment echoed by IRFU CEO Phillip Browne in a confusing briefing with the Irish media on Wednesday.
While Browne put on record his sympathy for Grobler, who has endured a "torrid time" for making a "mistake", he also admitted that the IRFU will reconsider their policy regarding the employment of dopers in the future. He also refused to be drawn on suggestions that the IRFU and Munster would terminate Grobler's contract with immediate effect.
Grobler returned to the rugby field last night, playing 66 minutes for Munster 'A' against Ospreys as he steps up his recovery from an ankle injury.
Munster sauntered to a 27-0 win, with Grobler impressive. If there was doubt as to what Grobler's reception would be among the Munster fans, last night offered some proof that Munster fans would stick by their player.
Speaking on Newstalk's Off The Ball today, the Irish Independent's rugby correspondent Ruaidhri O'Connor confirmed that the Munster faithful rallied around Grobler last night, and was given a massive cheer as he left the field as a substitute.
A few Munster fans at the game confirmed that Grobler had their full support, too:
Great at 68’ when GG came off to the loudest applause of the night, well deserved #SUAF
— Richard Daly (@richarddaly) January 19, 2018
64' 27-0. GG and Sherry superb this evening #ArnoldUpdates pic.twitter.com/q8y4AGVbPR
— Munster Rugby (@Munsterrugby) January 19, 2018
Elsewhere, writing in today's Irish Independent, Alan Quinlan writes that Munster must stick by Grobler and play him in the first team, although does say he should never have been signed:
The bruising South African lock should never have been signed but Munster have invested enough time and money in the player at this stage that I believe he should represent the province at the top when he is fit and ready.
I was proud to wear that Munster jersey for 15 years and I want to see him play. I want him to pay back the province and his team-mates, such as Peter O'Mahony and Conor Murray who have stood up for him during an understandably difficult time.