South Africa-born former Munster legend and Irish international CJ Stander is fully behind his former team ahead of the United Rugby Championship (URC) final, being hosted by the Stormers in Cape Town on Saturday.
Although he is now back living in the country of his birth and based in Paarl, just up the drag from the Stormers’ home town, his allegiance is fully with the side he turned out for 156 times over a nine year stint in Limerick.
After starting his professional rugby career in Pretoria at the Bulls and having represented them for two years, Stander moved on to Munster in 2012, shortly after their last major success, winning the 2010-11 Celtic League (earlier iteration of the URC).
‘Munster need this’
During his time there he suffered through three heartbreaking major final defeats, in Pro12 finals against Glasgow Warriors (2014-15 season) and Scarlets (2016-17), and in the Pro 14 final against Leinster (2020-21).
Having represented Ireland on 51 occasions as well, Stander made a shock retirement from rugby at the early age of 31 in 2021, to return to South Africa with his young family.
During a URC round table session earlier in the week Stander made it clear who he would be supporting this weekend.
“Being in Dublin (for the Champions Cup final) this (past) week, I could feel that Munster need this. Not just for the team, but Cork, Limerick, and the Munster province in general,” said Stander.
“Just to get that belief back, that all the hard work from the last eight or nine years hasn’t been for nothing.”
No mixed emotions
Looking ahead to the match against the Stormers, Stander admitted that Munster would have to be at their very best if they want to topple the competition defending champions on their home turf again.
“It’s going to be a tough game. Watching the Connacht (semi-final) I noticed the Stormers have a game where they know how they want to play,” said Stander.
“They play from anywhere and they are very good at it. They scored two tries where it looked like nothing was on, and Munster need to clamp (down) on that from the start.
“So I will not have any mixed emotions this weekend. I am just immensely proud (of Munster) being in the final and having a great chance to win it.”
Asked if he missed the game, having retired at a fairly young age, Stander said: “No not at all.
“I said this to someone over the weekend … I don’t miss the game, but I do miss these weekends. Cracking a few beers afterwards, having done all the hard work.”