CJ Stander’s Munster career was almost over before it began.
When the South African born flanker first came to Munster it was clear Rob Penney was not his biggest fan. He was rarely in the starting line-up for thr province and almost became the forgotten man at the province.
Stander has said many times that he very nearly decided to call it quits for Munster. Eventually Anthony Foley gave the now Irish international his big break and he’s hasn’t looked back since. He’s become one of Munster’s leading stars and started every game for Ireland in the 2016 Six Nations, solidifying his place as one of the best flankers in Europe right now.
If it wasn’t for a certain Paul O’Connell however, we may not have gotten the CJ Stander we have today. Stander credits Paul O’Connell for giving him the belief when he thought his Munster career was over before it began.
I remember at the beginning, not playing and just hanging around, he would always look at me and see how disappointed I looked in my face, and he’d come up to me and just say:
‘Keep the faith, kid. Keep the faith’.
Those reassuring words led to Stander hanging toough and biding his time for his shot. When he got it, he took it with both hands.
What true legend of the sport and a fantastic mentor and leader Paul O’Connell was. We may never see the likes of him again.