CJ Stander has been playing Rugby in Ireland since 2012 where he joined Munster Rugby from Bulls in South Africa. Last year he made his International debut for his adopted country against Wales in the Six Nations, and this year he will make his British and Irish Lions debut for their Summer tour in New Zealand. A roller coaster 5 years for the 27 year old.
After qualifying to play for Ireland after living in the country for three years why did he decide to play for Ireland and not South Africa?
According to Stander he was told that he was to small to make it with the South African squad and boy did he prove them wrong. He has been outstanding for both Munster and Ireland, winning award after award and scoring many tries along the way. South Africa’s loss was very much Munster and Ireland’s gain.
The back row is definitely not the only non-native player to wear the Irish jersey but he has become something of a lightning rod for those opposed to the old rule whereby a player who hadn’t previously played senior rugby for his country of birth could declare for another after a three-year residency.
With reports that Munster Director of Rugby Rassie Erasmus planning to bring over players from South Africa to help boost his Munster squad with the likes of Dave Foley and Donnacha Ryan leaving at the end of the season maybe this will take the pressure of Stander.
Plenty have had their opinions on whether he should play for Ireland or not but the fact of the matter is that whether you like it or not, Ireland’s decision to pick him was both within the rules and ultimately for the benefit of both Munster and Ireland.
Despite this Stander thinks people will always have differing options on the residency rules.
“Ah, they can probably turn it into ten years, or even take it away, but people will always talk about it,” said Stander speaking ahead of Wednesday nights Rugby Players Ireland awards in Dublin.
“It will probably take a bit of pressure off me now for a while but it is always going to be there,” he added. “It’s always going to be a hot topic. Someone will step in and be the poster boy and, hopefully, take the pressure off me.”
Asked on Ireland’s Pool A for the Rugby World Cup in 2019 Stander said
“It’s a good draw and we’re happy with it,” “There’s a lot of other groups that would have been tougher to be in. Look, it’s the World Cup and there’s a few years to go with a lot of teams on an upward scale; hopefully we are also. It all depends on when we get there, but it’s a good draw.”
“They are getting up there and they can still improve. There are still two years to go. This summer tour is going to be interesting now, it’s going to be good preparation. They’re at home and going to get all the support with the stands full. They’re going to be up emotionally wise, so it’s going to be interesting.”
Stander who has been out with an ankle injury for the past few weeks is set to be fit for Munsters Pro12 Semi-final against Ospreys next week.
“Yeah, I had a good break,” he explained, “and Rassie (Erasmus) and the coaches gave me a good bit of time off to get back fully fit. I am fully fit now and looking forward to the semi-final.”
Asked on his teammate Conor Murray winning Players Player of the Year, Stander replied “He’s had an unbelievable season,” he said of Murray, who returned to action last weekend after a long layoff with nerve damage to his neck and shoulder.
“He’s one of those players who always picks us up and he’s always ready for the big games. Fair play to him, he’s been good over the last few years and it just shows you that all the players recognise what he’s done. It’s probably the highest honour you can get to get selected by your teammates. It’s great for him.”
You can read the article in full at the Irish Examiner