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Stander is key to winning Munster performance

By Aidan Corr
PLAYING at the top level of any sport is the dream of most young sportsmen and women. But when you achieve it by travelling halfway around the globe to display your skills, it is something of a fairytale.
For CJ Stander (pictured with Heineken’s Pat Maher), the past few weeks have been particularly memorable. After being named in the Irish squad for the Six Nations, he played in each of the five games and this week spoke of what it has meant to the former discuss champion and to his family back home on the farm in George, South Africa.
“It’s been absolutely great to get the call-up from Joe (Schmidt) and then getting into the team was unbelievable for me personally. All the lads made it easy for me to settle in and it was nice for me to be able to give something back to Irish rugby and to the supporters after being here for the past four years.”
Pictures of CJ singing the Irish National Anthem during the 6N have been shown throughout the world but not everybody in his home country has welcomed his decision to wear the green shirt: “My family have told me that there has been some media comment. Not all of it was positive as some felt I should play for the Springboks,” he said with a mischievous grin.
“If I am lucky enough to be selected in the Irish squad for the summer tour, it would be fantastic. All my family and my friends would be certain to get to the three test matches in South Africa, particularly my grandad who has always been an inspiration to me. When I was young he would say to me, ‘I want to see you play for the Springboks.’ He was the first one I told when I signed a contract with Munster and his response was, ‘Well, ok, but don’t play with England!’
CJ has been in try-scoring mood in recent weeks, earning him the name of ‘greedy’ from some of his Munster colleagues but like the other members of the squad, a victory over Leinster in the Aviva tomorrow is his priority: “If we slip up in this game we will have a bit to make up. You can feel the extra energy in the camp since all the international boys came back and we know what we have to do. Axel has told me that Leinster are our ‘enemies’ so I know what to expect. The players are all nice guys and know and respect each other through the international camps and but friendship will be on hold for 80 minutes. We both have a lot to play for in this game.”
One thing is certain in Saturday’s continuation of Blues v Reds confrontations and it is that Christiaan Johann Stander will give his all as will the other fourteen in the Munster shirts. It is a long way from the Blue Bulls of the Super League but for CJ Stander, victory remains the ultimate goal: “Leinster play unbelievable rugby and it is going to be a very tough battle. Winning the gain line battles is going to be crucial but these are the games that every player wants to be part of.”

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