Saturday 4 February 2023 Dublin: 3°C
Billy Stickand/INPHO Stander in action against England last year.
# Farewell
England expect Ireland to be galvanised by CJ Stander's last hurrah
Matt Proudfoot recalls seeing Stander breaking through into South African rugby.

MATT PROUDFOOT FIRST came across CJ Stander in their native South Africa around 2010, when the young back row was really starting to make a name for himself.

Stander had already captained the South Africa Schools and U20s before breaking through at senior professional level with the Blue Bulls. There was soon a push to convert Stander to hooker but he resisted and when Munster and the IRFU came calling in 2012, he decided to pursue his career in Ireland.

Stander hasn’t looked back since and Proudfoot, now England’s forwards coach after helping the Springboks to World Cup glory in 2019, has been very impressed with the back row’s rise.

“When he burst onto the scene playing in a massive Bulls team, we used to have great contests against him and he was incredible, you know,” said Proudfoot, who was with the Stormers at the time. 

“Like myself, he made a decision for his life and it took him on an incredible adventure. He was loyal to that adventure and for that I congratulate him. Well done, it has an incredible career.”

Stander’s announcement seemingly caught many of his Munster and Ireland team-mates off guard but Proudfoot – who played for Scotland during his own career, qualifying through his grandfather – said he wasn’t shocked.

“Family reasons are very powerful reasons, very powerful motivators for people. You know… no, I am not surprised,” said Proudfoot.

“I think the world is in a very tough place and the things that motivate you in life, your reasons why, are very important and you need to take care of them. He spoke about his whys as playing the game and being the best he could be, and his family.

“And when those two come into conflict it must be a tough place to be as a player, having to pick between the two things you care the most about in the world.

“I am just really congratulating him on a fantastic career, he has been incredible for his team and he’s been consistent, he’s led from the front, he’s led the way he plays, he’s a good man. I just wish him well in his next endeavours.”

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Proudfoot has no doubt that Ireland will be strongly motivated to see Stander out on a high as he gets set for his final Test in green this weekend against the English in Dublin.

“He has been a talisman for their pack and team for a long, long time,” said Proudfoot. “He plays with his heart on his sleeve. He’s a tough, tough competitor, tough man.

“I’m sure they’ll want to close his chapter on the right note. We can expected a highly-motivated Irish team really looking to come at us. We need to confront that and get ourselves on the front foot.”

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