Rugby World Cup: CJ Stander says rugby needs to rid itself of doping
South African-born player says he didn’t see much of it during his time in native country
Ireland’s CJ Stander during training ahead of the 2019 Rugby World Cup. Photo: Dan Sheridan/Inpho
The ongoing Aphiwe Dyantyi case, along with an increase in positive tests for steroids at South Africa’s annual schoolboy tournament Craven Week, has ensured the question of doping is following South African-born players all over Japan.
Ireland duo CJ Stander and Jean Kleyn both came through the underage system in their native land, with Stander a star turn at Craven Week in 2008 while Kleyn was a late bloomer, which contributed to Munster securing his signature in 2014.
Growing concerns about doping in rugby, and specifically in South Africa, led Kleyn to state “there’s a few cases everywhere” before qualifying “everywhere” with “except not as much in Ireland” but Stander states he never really came across steroids growing up in the rural Western Cape or after moving to Pretoria to represent the Blue Bulls.
“When I was younger I was out in the sticks so all we knew there was farming,” said Stander, who is expected to start at number eight against Scotland in Yokohama on Sunday. “I never really came across it a lot. It’s something probably if you want to go look for it, and you want to do it, then it’s probably open to get there.
“I don’t think it’s the right thing to do at all. [Rugby] is a great sport and it’s better to keep it clean. In Ireland they look after all those things and make sure everyone is on track so, again, I think it’s something we need to get out of the sport.”
Stander ultimately left South Africa after being told he was too small, at six foot one inch and 18 stones, to become a Springbok backrower. They asked him to switch to hooker. He joined Munster instead.
In 2018 six teenagers tested positive for steroids at Craven Week.
“I played Craven Week 11 years ago. The most you got then was the eggs you got in the morning for the protein.”
Despite the South African Institute for Drug-Free Sport (SAIDS) stating that between 2004 and 2014 nearly half of all doping convictions against rugby players in South Africa came from testing at under-19s and Craven Week, Stander saw no abuse of banned drugs.
“No, no nothing. They were quite on top of it. I was tested when I played Craven Week out of the three games, I played three days, they were on top of it. I think it is well looked after.
“The last few years they probably had more testers out. I don’t really know.”
It was put to Stander that teenagers’ desperation to be signed by professional scouts is leading to an increase in steroid usage.
“Mate, I think if you want to be the best at what you do just make sure you train hard and play well. Make sure you can do what you can do with your body. And that’s what you got.
“If you go that path. I don’t stand for it at all. I think it is influence from the outside maybe, I don’t know.”
Does the temptation to dope, Stander was asked, perhaps come from younger players feeling that they must get bigger?
“It is about talent and ability, and sustainability – how people can perform and how long they can perform over a few months and a few games.
“Look, I was always told I was too small. I just made sure I trained hard and trained well, and made sure I looked after my body so I can get selected.
“If they want you to get taller, you can’t. You can just get stronger.”