'I like the niggly stuff' - Stander ready to be Springboks' target

The 26-year-old is aware there will be extra focus on him in South Africa.

WHEN SOUTH AFRICAN native Richardt Strauss made his Ireland debut against the Springboks in 2012, he was targeted relentlessly.

Constant verbal abuse and huge hits on and off the ball were part of the intimidation, which the Leinster hooker has since said he enjoyed and embraced. The former Cheetahs front row had expected nothing less.

CJ Stander is very much in the same frame of mind as he looks towards Ireland’s three-Test visit to his native South Africa next month.

CJ Stander and Conor Murray Stander will face his native South Africa next month. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

The powerful back row’s Munster season ended on Saturday with a Guinness Pro12 victory over the Scarlets that ensured the province’s Champions Cup qualification, meaning Stander now has a month to ready himself for what lies ahead in his homeland.

“Oh yeah,” says Stander when asked if he expects to be physically and verbally targeted by the Boks.

“I think I spoke to Richardt and he said when they played the Boks up here his name was used in every second sentence.

I think because you understand the language there’s a lot of boys that you play against that don’t like you or they like you so, yeah, it will be something I look forward to. I like that.

“I like the physical stuff and the niggly stuff so we’ll see. I’m looking forward to it if I get selected.”

Barring any late injury disasters in training, Stander is nailed on to be selected by Joe Schmidt for the tour and will very much back himself to retain the starting position he held during this year’s Six Nations.

Man of the match on his international debut against Wales, the 26-year-old retained his spot for the remainder of the tournament and shone as one of Ireland’s best players.

CJ Stander 21/6/2012 Stander played Super Rugby for the Bulls. Source: Gavin Barker

Having captained South Africa at U20 level and progressed into Super Rugby with the Blues, things could have been so different for Stander.

Earmarked as a possible future Springboks captain in his youth, his departure to Munster in 2012 came as a shock to many in South Africa.

Part of his motivation for moving at that time was being told by then Springboks coach Heyneke Meyer that he was too small to play in the back row and might benefit from a move to hooker.

That spurred Stander on to prove the doubters wrong, though he says that experience will not be driving him next month.

They’re not there anymore so… yeah, it would be good personally for me just to play in front of my family and my supporters, who’ve always been supporting me.

“I can’t really prove people wrong anymore. It was good to use that as motivation but now I need to move on and look after myself by trying to get more caps in that green jersey and taking Munster to the next level.”

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While there are still Pro12 play-offs for many of Ireland’s internationals to negotiate before they can focus on South Africa, the likes of Stander, Conor Murray, Simon Zebo and Keith Earls will have already switched to international mode.

Ireland’s CJ Stander Stander has five Ireland caps already. Source: Inpho/Billy Stickland

Allister Coetzee has taken over as head coach, there will be turnover in the playing squad and there has been much debate about racial quotas in South Africa. Despite the upheaval, Stander underlines that Ireland will need something special to create history.

“It’s not going to be handy,” says the Munster man. “It’s depending on selection but I think playing there, the Springboks always come out to play a physical game and it’s going to be tough.

Especially playing in Cape Town first and then you’re going to have to go up to altitude [in Johannesburg]. The supporters are always unreal so you know what you’re going to get.

“There’s a lot of politics going on. I don’t know what’s going on there so it’s going to be interesting to see what’s going to happen. It’s unpredictable at this stage. If it’s going to be full supporters or not, if they’re going to pick this team or that team, I don’t know. It’s something I don’t really want to concentrate on.

“I just want to put my hand up, get selected and then go.”

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