CJ Stander played his 100th game for Munster last weekend in their loss to Leinster at the Aviva but the back rower wasn’t too downhearted after the result this week when he spoke to the media.
The South African and his side are totally focusing on Europe now, going into back to back fixtures against tough French sides in Castres this weekend and Ronan O’Gara’s Racing Metro side the following weekend.
Despite criticism from some quarters regarding Munster’s intensity, Stander believes that the players are going into the game in a positive mindset and looking to atone for some of the costly errors from the Leinster game.
“These weeks look after themselves. Everyone wants to be part of the team and be physical and play on the weekend, so coming off a loss against Leinster I know a lot of boys are heads down a bit disappointed but now have a chance to maybe put up their hand. Going into Europe there’s no questions asked about our physicality and our intensity.”
Stander is under no illusions as to what Munster can expect at the Stade Pierre Antoine on Sunday and knows that his side will have to front up physically and meet the French head on, a challenge that Stander will not step back from.
The British and Irish Lion is understandably relishing the prospect of a confrontational battle. Speaking at Munster’s Champions Cup press briefing Stander says Munster have done their video analysis and know what to expect.
“We’ve watched a few games of them and see what they do as a team. I like a physical battle so I’m looking forward to this weekend”
“They play a physical game, they play a strong game they run at you and they defend hard. We know that we need to clamp down on penalties because they like to maul, they like to get their forwards involved in the game early on and we cant wait until the 70th minute to outplay them so we need to go out there and grind it out, it’s going to be a tough 80 minutes”
With such a dogged encounter expected against Christophe Urios’ men, Munster will have to cut out costly ill-discipline which ultimately cost them the game against Leinster last weekend. Stander knows that keeping the penalty count down is going to be key.
“We know that going to France a penalty count less than 6 to win there, They’ve got unbelievable crowds. We need to keep the penalty count down to keep them away from scoring easy points.”
Stander says the team analysed their penalties from the Leinster game and despite a few borderline calls that might not have gone their way, the combative back row was making no excuses.
“There was 1 or 2 where people felt they were a bit done in but it’s 50/50 because there’s different angles and stuff like that but everyone put up their hand and said look out of the 13 penalties, 13 guys said I could have fixed that easily. We know it’s in ourselves to fix them”
Despite falling foul of the referee last time out, the Irish international doesn’t want his side to go back into their shells on Sunday and wants them to play on the edge, but just in a smarter way.
“I think you need to live on the edge and make sure you do the right things in the game. As I said some of the best players play on the edge so sometimes you’re on the wrong side of the ref sometimes your on the right side but you don’t want to let the team down, so you’ll think before you do something.”
To win in France, you need to play with an edge while not giving the home side a chance to influence the referee. Let’s hope Munster can strike the right balance between the two on Sunday and come back with a crucial opening win.