CJ Stander Reveals The Biggest Thing He’s Learned Over The Last Few Years

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CJ Stander’s rise has been nothing short of meteoric.

The Munster and Ireland back-row has been one of rugby’s standout player’s over the last couple of seasons, winning a host of awards, including Munster’s player of the year award twice, the IRUPA player of the year and most recently the The Guinness Rugby Writers of Ireland player of the year award.

When Stander came to Ireland first however, things didn’t exactly go to plan. He couldn’t force his way into Rob Penney’s plans and found himself sitting in the stands most weeks. It wasn’t until Anthony Foley came along that he got his chance.

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Stander played a key role in Foley’s Munster side, with the late coach making him captain last year in the absence of Peter O’Mahony. Stander however, once again found himself in the face of adversity, leading a Munster team that came under fire on many occasions- but he didn’t let that put him down, he kept going and he got called up to the Irish squad.

Stander then returned home only to be sent off against the Springboks in the first game of the series. Once again CJ came back and didn’t let it keep him down. The worst was yet to come however, when the man who had given him the opportunity to become the player he is today, tragically passed away.

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The South African however has kept going through all of this to become one of the best back-rows in world rugby.

“I would say this last year has also been one of the toughest years of my rugby career with all the stuff that happened. It was difficult just being in a team needing to win week in, week out just to qualify for Europe.” Stander said last night as he picked up his  Guinness Rugby Writers of Ireland player of the year award.

“Then going out to South Africa to perform and then not getting the chance. At some stage you’d probably start doubting yourself but I’ve learned, for myself and from other people, to go from week to week and put it all behind you. 

“The passing away of the big man, Axel, was very tough and I won’t put that behind me but the South Africa thing, the red card, for me personally it was one of my worst days but the team won and for the first time won in South Africa so there was a bigger picture and it was about the team, not about yourself. You can’t go into a corner and feel bad for yourself if you’re not going to perform the next week (through suspension) you still have to give the boys in green your best training during the week, get out of your shell and work your hardest for the team.

“That’s the biggest thing I’ve learned in the last few years, as long as you hard for the people around you, they’ll pick you up, especially in this group and the group down in Munster. They’re special people, very special people. They’re people you can sit down with and talk to them if you have a problem, so it’s good.”

A hero both on and off the pitch. CJ Stander we salute you sir.

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