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Tuesday 6 December 2016

CJ now standing proud in green

Flanker handed rugby writers' Player of the Year accolade

CJ Stander in action for Ireland against Australia at the Aviva Stadium last Saturday. Pic: Sportsfile
CJ Stander in action for Ireland against Australia at the Aviva Stadium last Saturday. Pic: Sportsfile

CJ Stander is going to need a bigger pad to house the awards that have been piling up ever since breaking into the Munster and Ireland teams.

The consistent collection of Man of the Match earnings has been topped up by being named back-to-back Player of the Year for Munster, the IRUPA Player of the Year and, last night, the Rugby Writers' Player of the Year.

"Yeah, it's good to get it," he acknowledged.

"I think when you're a younger boy you go through a stage where you want to get a lot of pats on the back.

"When you get older and you get into a team you just want to perform for all the boys and for the team to help them win. That's really my biggest drive."

The man once told he was too small to be a Springbok has been a big addition to Ireland for his relentless work-rate and leadership.

"It's been a great year, an unbelievable last three years, and I've worked hard to get to the place where I am now," he said.

They say the hardest part beyond making it is to keep on making it.

"The biggest thing for me now is to drive on from there and not settle or be part of the furniture.

"You always have to push on and create something new."

Stepping up

No matter how far Stander is from home, the voice of his father, Jannie, never quite leaves him.

"My dad always used to say to me "your boss is only getting born," that someone is stepping up to make life difficult for you," he shared.

"He used to say it in Afrikaans but it means that the guy who's going to push you out of your position is only over your shoulder."

It has not been a perfect year for Stander, the red card in his native South Africa and the loss of Anthony Foley bringing darkness where, otherwise, there were bright highlights.

"I would say this last year has been one of the toughest years of my rugby career with all the stuff that happened.

"At some stage, you'd probably start doubting yourself. But I've learned, for myself and from other people, to go from week to week and put it all behind you.

"The passing away of the big man, Axel, was very tough and I won't put that behind me. The South Africa thing, the red card, for me personally it was one of my worst days.

"But the team won first time won in South Africa so there was a bigger picture and it was about the team, not about yourself."

When it comes to the future, Jannie is always there inside his head.

"He says 'you're not playing tug of war, the only way you're winning there is if you're going backwards'.

"If you go backwards in rugby, you're losing and for me it's the same in life, you need to go forward in anything you do."

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