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Dublin: 11°C Sunday 18 April 2021
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'It was great being back, I remember coming to this stadium from the age of four'

Local boy CJ Stander relished the chance to play at Outeniqua Park yesterday, as Munster defeated the Southern Kings in the Pro14.

CJ Stander surrounded by both sets of fans after Munster's win on Saturday in George, South Africa.
CJ Stander surrounded by both sets of fans after Munster's win on Saturday in George, South Africa.
Image: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

IT WAS ALL pomp and parade in George on Saturday evening as one of the beautiful South African town’s favourite sons returned home to run out against the Southern Kings in the Guinness Pro14.

CJ Stander was born and bred in George and was schooled at one of the traditional powerhouses of South African schools rugby, Hoër Landbouskool Oakdale (Oakdale Agricultural School).

Rugby runs deep in the Stander family and his younger brother Janneman is the captain of the local provincial team — the South Western Districts Eagles — who will be playing in the Super Sport Challenge soon, and the Currie Cup 1st Division later in the season.

Munster had to dig deep to come from trailing 15-13 at the break to earn a bonus point 39-22 victory during the first ever Pro14 match contested at Outeniqua Park. In the process Stander scored one of the visitors’ six tries.

“It was great that our supporters came out from Ireland,” he said afterwards. “There was a good bunch of them in the stands, it’s what they do every week.

CJ Stander celebrates after the game with his wife Jean-Marie Stander celebrates after the game with his wife Jean-Marie. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

“To the see the people of George coming out and supporting the Kings as well was great. It was a great game and a great atmosphere. It kept the game alive, especially in the first half.

“The Kings played very well in the first 20 minutes, they swung the ball wide and put us under quite a bit of pressure.

For me personally it was great being back in my home town and to play in front of my family, friends and other people I know was a great experience.

“I remember coming to this stadium from the age of four years old. The stadium has declined a bit over the past few years, but it was good seeing Outeniqua Park full again.”

Munster face the Toyota Cheetahs next week in Bloemfontein and taking the altitude and the Cheetahs third place standing into account, it will present the Irish outfit with an entirely different challenge.

Stander does have ties to the City of Roses, as this is the home town of his wife, Jean-Marié (sister of the Olympic gold medallist swimmer, Ryk Neethling).

He has been known to spend time there visiting his in-laws during his time away from the game.

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Munster fans hold up a banner thanking South Africa for CJ Stander Munster fans hold up a banner thanking South Africa for CJ Stander Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Stander has played against the Free State and the Toyota Cheetahs numerous times in the past for the Bulls in both the Currie Cup and Super Rugby, and he is well aware of the challenge that waits the team on Friday evening.

“It will be another physical battle, only one team has been able to beat them up there (Glasgow Warriors). They know how to use the pitch and the stadium to their advantage,” he said.

At altitude it is going to be a challenge, so we have a big game up there next week. We know that they are physical and their backs can punish you.

“To be on top of our game we must make sure that we sort out the injuries and get the bodies sorted out for next week.”

At this stage it is believed that there is a possibility that Stander will not be playing in the game at the Toyota Stadium next week.

He, along with a few other players could be rested ahead of his side’s massive Champions Cup semi-final versus Racing 92 at the Stade Chaban-Delmas, in Bordeaux on 22 April.

The new Springbok coach and former Munster tactician Rassie Erasmus will, however, be in attendance.

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Morgan Piek

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