CJ Stander happy with his return to form against South Africa

Munster number eight believes new coach Johann van Graan will hit the ground running

CJ Stander successfully negotiated his way through Ireland’s 38-3 victory over the Springboks at the weekend.Photograph: Brian Lawless/PA Wire.

CJ Stander successfully negotiated his way through Ireland’s 38-3 victory over the Springboks at the weekend.Photograph: Brian Lawless/PA Wire.

 

It invariably helps when you speak the language, a truism to which CJ Stander’s might subscribe as his fluency in Afrikaans provided the George-born, Ireland international with an early warning system as he successfully negotiated his way through Ireland’s 38-3 victory over the Springboks at the weekend.

There was nothing overly malicious but an amalgam of having grown up in South Africa where he got to know and play with and against many of the Springbok team, he was always likely to be the punctuation mark physically from time to time. Far from being cowed the “audibles” on the referee’s microphone underlined vocally how much he relished the challenge.

He explained: “I try to be vocal every game. Yeah, look, I know most of them so I got a bit of extra treatment. I understand the language so it makes easier to understand if it’s directed towards me. It was a good game, no niggles really. I think both teams got down to their jobs and if you play for this team, play for Joe [Schmidt] you let that white noise slide and just concentrate on your job.”

Rigours

The 27-year-old also revealed that Schmidt gave him a little pep talk prior to the match and in acknowledging Stander’s performance in the aftermath the Ireland coach expressed his satisfaction at what he felt was a true return to form for the number eight.

Stander accepted the point being made. “In the beginning [of the season] I felt I was trying maybe to concentrate on stuff that wasn’t in my control. Joe spoke to me before the game and gave a good analogy, said I was like an airplane on the runway, I’m there but I’m not going up. Look, I won’t say I’m flying yet, I’m probably on the takeoff so it was great for me to get the nod from him and to get the responsibility to go out on Saturday and perform.”

He argued that the rigours of the Lions Tour to New Zealand last summer didn’t have an adverse affect on his form, instead putting it down to a few niggles from an injury perspective that perhaps slightly compromised the traditional impact he enjoys on matches.

In ascribing the key to victory last weekend he settled on Ireland’s defence. “I just think it was a collective mentality. We went out there and made sure that, firstly, we knew our job, and secondly that we played for each other, made sure we were mentally switched on for the full 80 minutes to not give them any ins at all.

“I think our defence was one of the best I’ve seen so far. We gave a few penalties away that we shouldn’t have but we said we were going to play the game the way we liked to, the way we want to perform.”

Stander noticed one or two small things in the body language and attitude of the Springboks that hadn’t been evident in the three Test series against Ireland in South Africa last year when they were energised by the support on home soil but doesn’t subscribe to the view that South African rugby is headed for the doldrums again in what has been a difficult 18 months.

Group of leaders

During his time in South Africa Stander spent four years working under Johann van Graan. He has no doubt that the new Munster coach who takes over later this month will adapt quickly, having already spent a week and a half with the province watching on as they prepared for a Champions Cup match.

“From a [Munster] players’ perspective, we’re a good group of leaders. I think we have taken charge for the last number of seasons. He’s going to come in and we’re almost going to give him the way we want to play and he’s going to give us a few different ways he wants to play.

“I think he’s the type of guy who will come in and slot in straight away. He’s the type of guy who will come in with his way of playing but he will adapt. I think we’ll push on from there. I think he’s the best fit out there. Coach-wise, he’s between Rassie and Jacques and personality so that’s perfect.”

For now though the priority is Fiji at the Aviva stadium on Saturday, a game in which Stander would love to play, his enthusiasm fired by last weekend’s success. “I think there is a lot work to do still from last week. It doesn’t’ matter who gets selected. If you go into the jersey, you need to own it and leave it in a better place.”

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