CJ Stander moved to Munster in 2012 after being deemed too small to play rugby for South Africa. For some the rejection from your country may have proved too much. However, such is the man, CJ Stander has gone on to new heights in his adopted home in Ireland, and especially Limerick. Speaking to South African website Sport24, Stander said,
My roots are in South Africa and I am proud to be a South African.
However, on the flipside, Irish rugby and the people of Ireland have pulled me in and have made me feel part of their culture and community.
Ireland afforded me the opportunity to play international rugby and I want to continue to give back and show the tremendous appreciation that I have for them. They made it an easy transition for us from day one even though I only came over with a few Rands and could hardly speak English at the time.
Life in Limerick has been good and the people have welcomed us with open arms. I’m always going to be South African, but I’m going to try to be the best Irishman I can be. I feel proud to play for Munster and Ireland, and the heritage at club and national level is unbelievable here. I left South Africa as a boy and have become a man in Ireland.
Stander made his Irish debut in 2016 against Wales in the Six Nations. Since then he has not taken a backward step for club or country. In his short two year international career, he has twice been nominated for player of the Six Nations championship and finished as joint top try scorer in the tournament, not bad for a No. 8.
He was then rewarded for his ability when he was one of 41 selected for Warren Gatland’s British and Irish Lions Squad which travel to New Zealand next week. He was one of 11 from Joe Schmidt’s Irish squad that were selected. Stander acknowledges the improvements his made since taking up residence in Ireland.
“During my time in Ireland, I have polished and refined my skillset and have made sure to smooth the rough edges within my game. I have turned myself into a true professional and ensure that the way that I train is the way I go out on to the pitch on match-day.
He continued, “Sometimes players set big expectations for themselves and think that they are going to reach their goals without training hard and putting in the work. I have learned that your training has to be world-class all the time, because if it isn’t you will fall down.”
“You need to work for the team and the jersey and you cannot just rely on pitching up, making a good carry and scoring a try. You can’t just have a good 20 minutes – you need to be constantly on the ball, at the breakdown and at the tackle area.”
I learned there is no substitute for work ethic when I was a youngster on our farm in South Africa and I’ve carried that with me ever since. I have seen that hard work pays off and I will keep on working hard for the teams I represent.
No doubt, the City of Limerick is proud of you CJ.