CJ Stander Reflects On His Amazing Journey In Fascinating Interview With South African Outlet
CJ Stander recently sat down with South African outlet Sport24 for an exclusive interview.
The Munster and Ireland back-row left his native country back in 2012 and hasn’t looked back. He had become frustrated with his career and felt it was time for a change and when Munster came knocking, he took the chance.
Stander says he was fortunate that he had nothing holding him back. He knew he needed the move and while his roots will always be in South Africa, he is forever grateful for how Ireland has made him feel part of their community.
At the age of 22, I was fortunate in the sense that I didn’t have anything in my life that was holding me back and I made the decision to leave with my then fiancé and now wife Jean-Marie. I felt as though I needed a fresh challenge after spending four years with the Blue Bulls and knew I needed to move on when the Munster offer came up.
While it was a tough decision to leave South Africa, it was an exciting opportunity to head to Europe. My roots are in South Africa and I am proud to be a South African. However, on the flipside, Irish rugby and the people of Ireland have pulled me in and have made me feel part of their culture and community.
He arrived in Ireland with only a few Rands to his name, barely able to speak English but he says his time here has transformed him into a man.
Ireland afforded me the opportunity to play international rugby and I want to continue to give back and show the tremendous appreciation that I have for them. They made it an easy transition for us from day one even though I only came over with a few Rands and could hardly speak English at the time.
Life in Limerick has been good and the people have welcomed us with open arms. I’m always going to be South African, but I’m going to try to be the best Irishman I can be. I feel proud to play for Munster and Ireland, and the heritage at club and national level is unbelievable here. I left South Africa as a boy and have become a man in Ireland.
Stander also says his game has benefitted hugely from the move.
During my time in Ireland, I have polished and refined my skillset and have made sure to smooth the rough edges within my game. I have turned myself into a true professional and ensure that the way that I train is the way I go out on to the pitch on match-day.
Sometimes players set big expectations for themselves and think that they are going to reach their goals without training hard and putting in the work. I have learned that your training has to be world-class all the time, because if it isn’t you will fall down. You need to work for the team and the jersey and you cannot just rely on pitching up, making a good carry and scoring a try.
You can’t just have a good 20 minutes – you need to be constantly on the ball, at the breakdown and at the tackle area. I learned there is no substitute for work ethic when I was a youngster on our farm in South Africa and I’ve carried that with me ever since. I have seen that hard work pays off and I will keep on working hard for the teams I represent.
You can read the fascinating interview in full here.