The Beautiful Paul O’Connell & CJ Stander Picture That Is Worth A Thousand Words

Keep the faith.

There have been some amazing pictures doing the rounds of CJ Stander following his final game for Ireland on Saturday evening.

The 30-year-old shocked the world last week when he announced that he would be retiring from rugby at the end of the season for family reasons following an incredible career for both club and country.

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Stander will be hoping he can sign off with some silverware at Munster with a PRO14 final against Leinster and a Champions Cup final versus Toulouse still to come but the powerful, 51-cap back-rower will never wear the green of Ireland again.

Of the many pictures we’ve seen of Stander bidding farewell to his adopted country, one struck a chord with us more than the others because of an excellent interview a few years back that comes to mind.

Stander is pictured above smiling at Ireland forwards coach Paul O’Connell with a special look in his face and that is no doubt down to what the former Ireland and Munster captain did for him early on in his career.

A lot of people forget that when Stander first arrived in Limerick back in 2012, a young South African with no English to his name, he initially found it very hard to break into the Munster team and would have been forgiven for throwing in the towel after a couple of really difficult years.

But some kind words from O’Connell every day to keep him going made all the difference and before long – Stander was on track to become a legendary figure at the southern province, just like O’Connell himself.

“I remember at the beginning…” Stander said in an interview several years ago.

“Not playing and just hanging around, [Paul O’Connell] would always look at me and see how disappointed I looked in my face, and he’d come up to me and just say:

“‘Keep the faith, kid. Keep the faith.’”

51 caps for Ireland, a Rugby World Cup, a British and Irish Lions tour and 150 games later – Stander kept the faith. And he was once again greeted by the man himself as he walked off the pitch as an Ireland player for the final time.

What a journey.