CJ Stander makes another strong statement of intent

Backrow capped brilliant first-half performance with NFL-style try

If Ireland made a statement of intent in the first 20 minutes at the Aviva stadium then no one was more eloquent than CJ Stander.

The Irish blindside flanker twice bounced Scottish openside John Hardie into a different orbit as the latter squared up for a collision as much as a tackle. Stander also gave his team excellent gain-lines in muscling his way past and through multiple tacklers.

The home side wanted to start quickly in the final Six Nations Championship match against a Scotland team coming off a fine victory over France last weekend and they accomplished that in a very direct fashion.

Stander in a highly effective backrow alongside Tommy O'Donnell and the outstanding Jamie Heaslip – a thoroughly deserved man-of-the-match recipient – was often a focal point, both in making hard yards and ensuring quick, front-foot possession.


The South African-born player admitted: “It was a physical match. In the first 20 minutes we came out and played, had a lot of possession and used it (well). In the second half they came out (strong) and the first 10 minutes was tough defending.

“They got back into the game. It was good to get the win at the end. It gives us a bit of a boost. It’s not ideal to be in the position but it was good to end the championship on a high note.”

That’s his overview but it doesn’t reveal that he led the way for much of the opening 40 minutes with a staggering 22 carries and also helped himself to a second try in his fledgling Test career that borrowed a little from American Football as he dived over a pile of prostrate bodies.

He admitted: “I knew I got it down. I got a knock on the eye, I thought I was bleeding and didn’t really know what was going on so it was good to get the try on a personal note.

“I scored one like that in my second game for Munster against Glasgow. It’s not ideal because if someone rips the ball out of your hand it is a knock-on. I saw there were a few bodies flat in front of me, so I thought, why not just jump over, an NFL thing. I tried it and it worked, next time it probably won’t.

“The whole week I just thought to myself, this is my last game in the (green) jersey for a while; you never know when you are going to play again. I just wanted to put everything into it on the pitch, leave that jersey in a better place. If I go on the summer tour (to South Africa) great but from a team perspective everyone stepped up.”

Given his herculean labours in the first half it was hardly surprising that he was a little less visible in carrying terms after the re-start. It’s an area he wants to improve upon, to sustain that impact over the 80 minutes.

“In the second half we had to do more defending because they had more of the ball. It was a big shift. My fitness is something that I can improve on, playing the game for 80 minutes and keep going forward. You don’t want to play 40 and then another 10, you want to play 80.”

He expects his Munster team-mate Peter O’Mahony to come back into contention for the South African Test series and the likelihood that they, amongst others will dispute the number six jersey.

Stander smiled: “Luckily we are good buddies. That jersey . . . there is always going to be someone else and it’s important to leave it (the jersey) in a good place.

“In any team there is big competition in the backrow, there are good players, and it is going to be tough to keep that spot. Any player that puts on that jersey, I’ll support them and they will support me.”

On the evidence of his performances in the Six Nations, it'll be tough to wrest the jersey away from Stander.

John O'Sullivan

John O'Sullivan

John O'Sullivan is an Irish Times sports writer