Schmidt Watch

Stander excels again as Ireland qualification grows ever closer

The powerful back row was man of the match for the sixth time in the league this season.

ANOTHER MUNSTER PRO12 game, another man of the match medal for CJ Stander.

The 25-year-old picked up the award for the sixth time this season in the league as he once again stood out with his abrasive, effective ball-carrying. There were some excellent reads and hits on defence too, while his set-piece work was efficient.

Darren Cave with CJ Stander and Simon Zebo Stander stood out physically once again for Munster. Morgan Treacy / INPHO Morgan Treacy / INPHO / INPHO

Ever thirsty to improve, Stander might look back on his involvement in the Tommy Bowe try as an area to learn from, but this was yet another demonstration of the South Africa native’s ability.

Watching on in Kingspan Stadium, Joe Schmidt might have been impressed.

Stander qualifies to play for Ireland in October on residency grounds, having first moved here in 2012. Schmidt’s men will hopefully be involved in the knock-out stages of the World Cup as Stander becomes eligible, but thereafter the back row is an interesting possible addition to the squad.

The former Blue Bull has stated on a number of occasions that he would be extremely open to playing for Ireland if selected in the future. Performances like the one he delivered against Ulster on Saturday in front of the watching Schmidt make that all the more likely.

The man of the match is good to get and to test myself against the best in the country is great, but I’m just leaving that up to when I get qualified and see what happens at that stage,” said Stander post-match in Belfast.

“For now, I want to give the boys the best I can and hopefully get some silverware.”

Ireland caps are a concern for the future. Right now, Stander is simply concentrating on the Guinness Pro12 with his province.

There was frustration for Munster against Ulster on Saturday, even if a draw is a fine result in Kingspan Stadium. That lingering regret was mainly on account of the two tries they conceded at the end of both halves of the game.

CJ Stander receives the Guinness Man of the Match award from Ross Broomfield Stander receives his man of the match medal. Presseye / William Cherry/INPHO Presseye / William Cherry/INPHO / William Cherry/INPHO

“It was just a lack of concentration to the end, those last 30 seconds of the first half and then at the end of the game,” explained Stander. “I think if we can patch that up it’s going to be interesting to see what happens in the next few games.”

While it was disappointing for Munster to concede those dramatic scores, they only added to the sense of excitement in what was an exceptionally watchable league fixture in Belfast.

Stander admitted “it’s good to see the Pro12 is flourishing” and underlined that the derby had been one of the toughest games he has played in this season, Champions Cup included.

A win for Munster would have taken them to the top of the table and into the driving seat for a home semi-final, but instead they look to the visit of the Dragons to Musgrave Park on Saturday as a means to achieving that.

With tries on their mind, Stander is likely to be crucial once again given that he’s already scored eight in the Pro12 this season. Munster left Ulster relatively content in the end despite the try concessions and Stander is looking towards the next challenge.

“We got the two points, so we’re happy with that. We knew it was going to be a tough game and it was going to be difficult.

“We knew they’d be physical up front, but I just think we gave away easy tries at the end of the first and second half and that’s disappointing. It’s something to work on for next week.”

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