MUNSTER HEAD COACH Johann van Graan says that CJ Stander signing a contract extension has given the whole province a lift at a vital part of the season.
Munster face into three inter-provincial derbies in the Pro14 over the Christmas period, with Leinster first up on St Stephen’s Day, on the back of two Champions Cup wins over Leicester Tigers.
Last week captain Peter O’Mahony signed on for another stint with his native province, and today fellow Lion and Ireland back-row Stander extended his stay until 2021.
Van Graan coached the 27-year-old when he was with the Bulls in South Africa and says he has shown huge growth as a person since then.
“It’s a massive boost, a world class player and fantastic individual. To see how he has grown as a man, as a husband, as a rugby player,” said van Graan.
“He puts his body on the line every single weekend. He delivered a fantastic performance on Sunday evening. It was 19 ball carries again. That final steal to give us the penalty that Keats kicked.
“To know that he is going to be at Munster for the next three years. Not only as a player but in a leadership position. He has got big dreams to go to the World Cup if he gets selected.
“If you want to be successful as a team you need big players available in the big games, and to have him available to us is great.”
The South African-born number eight has 18 caps for Ireland as well as scoring 32 tries in 105 appearances for Munster.
And with Stander, O’Mahony and Conor Murray all signed on van Graan says there are exciting times ahead for the two-time European Cup champions.
“Everybody buys into the plan. We have got a very specific plan up until the end of the season and then some guys might leave, and we might get in some new guys and then you start all over again with a new season,” said van Graan.
“But the fact that they are staying long term means that we are settled in some key positions.
“To have all three Lions staying at Munster for the next few years is a massive boost to the club.”
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