Stander hunting for trophies after frustrating start to season

CJ Stander has played just two games this season after an extended break due to Ireland’s history making summer tour in Australia.

The burly number eight was in scintillating form against Ulster last weekend but that performance came off a heavy defeat to Cardiff the week before. Munster’s two defeats this season have come away from home and this weekend, they face a huge test at the Aviva Stadium against the European and Pro14 champions.

“It’s the toughest test that we are going to get against the best team in Europe. They proved that last year. We haven’t been successful up there since 2014. Going up there we just want to be consistent, in the way we play, train and make sure that we get out of this game on, game off thing and push for consistency.

“We have to look at this weekend as being the only thing in front of us but we want to build on last week. We know that we have big games coming up but there is no better test than Leinster to get ready for those games.”

Munster ran in nine tries against Ulster at Thomond Park last weekend in an eye catching display. One of the most pleasing aspects of that performance was the handling skills that the forward pack produced and it’s something that Stander admitted that they have been working hard on.

“We got a bit of space and it’s good to show off those skills. It’s a thing Johann brought in when he arrived, to make sure the forwards could handle the ball and it paid off. It just comes down to producing it again at the weekend.

“Most of the tries we scored were from individual guys working hard off the ball and making sure they were in the right position to get over the try line. I think the attack coach and all the coaches are happy with the performance but I think they know that we have a big challenge coming. Everything started new again on Monday to make sure that we are prepared for the best Leinster team that we have faced.”

Guinness PRO14, Thomond Park, Limerick 29/9/2018 Munster vs Ulster Munster’s CJ Stander Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/Dan Sheridan

It’s a big couple of weeks for players with International aspirations. Stander is one player that could have one eye on Ireland’s Autumn games but he insists that he is fully focused on Munster and how he performs for the province.

“The important thing is to perform for Munster and make sure you put your hand up for the Munster team and get selected (for Ireland) after that.There are a few big games coming up and are great opportunities for everyone to take that chance. There is always competition and there is now better way to test yourself and see where you stand. In these weeks, I know they (Irish coaching team) look at it.”

One area that has frustrated Munster’s players and fans alike is the lack of trophies brought back to Thomond Park in recent years. A Celtic League title in 2011 is the last piece of silverware that Munster have won and Stander admits that it is something that needs to be rectified.

“There is a bit of frustration,” he admitted. “We have spoken a lot about it. We felt that we have had a chance in the past to get medals in competitions but it’s a thing that we are trying to work on at the start of the season and the end of the season to get an opportunity. It’s important to start the season well and end it well. The ultimate goal is to win.”

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John Keogh