CJ Stander: Anthony Foley ‘pushed me to the next level’

The man too small to be a Springbok pays tribute to Foley after felling the All Blacks

Not tall enough to be Springbok, strange then to see CJ Stander generating enough power to fell these All Blacks.

Kieran Read being the best number eight in the world and there was Stander, told a few years ago he was not good enough to play backrow for South Africa, that he was too small at six foot two and needed switching to hooker.

The man, this block of granite, disagreed and left his native land for Munster where Anthony Foley took him under his wing.

Now this.


“Yeah. Something like that goes through your head all week. On a personal level you want to show yourself that you can do it. And everyone who doubted you. It is great to have a performance against a guy like that.

“But (Read) is going to come back at us in two weeks time. That’s when you have to show what is in you.

“It’s important you have to keep that in the back of your mind. It was a great performance. Delighted with it but we are going to have to suck it up.”

This is true. The All Blacks revert to zero in Rome. They will not countenance losing twice to a team, especially little old Ireland.

“It was unbelievable from all the boys. A confidence boost but we are playing them again in two weeks time so they are going to come back with everything they have.”

Jordi Murphy will be out for months with knee ligament damage but, hear this, Sean O'Brien just played another 57 minutes against Zebre.

Peter O’Mahony just clocked out from his fourth Munster game.

“There were a few mistakes out there but there was stuff we did that was good as well. We have to build on that.”

Before the game as New Zealand rolled out Kapa O Pango - their slightly blunted war dance under Chicago’s skies - Ireland did something totally new and probably a one off. They matched the Kiwis calling on their ancestral warrior spirits by honouring Foley in a figure of eight with Munster men out front.

“Yeah, dunno if you saw it, we made an eight, a figure of eight. We made a decision about that during the week. For me personally and Murray and all the Munster boys standing there it was big.

“Same as the Glasgow match we wanted to give something back to him and the family. He meant a lot to me and was really the rock in my rugby development these last four years. Showed me what he learned over the years.

“He pushed me to the next level.

“I just think of what man he was, the legend he was. What he gave to me as a rugby player. In that 60th minute when I got tired, I was just thinking: why am I playing this match? Who got me here. Everything he gave to me. That was massive for me.”

Stander refused to get carried away. He kept coming back to the fact that The All Blacks will be swimming up the Liffey the week after next with the scent of blood in their nostrils.

Nobody saw this coming - not the media, not supporters and not the bookmakers and their 23 point handicap - only the players.

“We work as a group, we work hard, we know our detail. We do everything early in the week so when we get to a match we know we can just be physical. You know the guy next to you behind you and in front of you will have your back and you will have his. We don’t play as a few boys individuals, we go out there as a team.

“That’s what dragged us through in those last twenty minutes.”

Gavin Cummiskey

Gavin Cummiskey

Gavin Cummiskey is The Irish Times' Soccer Correspondent