Future Star: CJ Stander

Stander memorably led South Western Districts to a 31-25 victory in the showpiece game at Craven Week in 2008 against the much-fancied Free State side.

‘It was an unbelievable moment for all of us and it was something we had all been dreaming of and to achieve our goal of winning was amazing,’ recalls Stander.

The loose forward puts the success down to the Young Eagles’ morale and knowledge of one another.

‘The team spirit within the side was great. We practised a lot together and we had all basically been playing together since U13 level, so we knew each other’s strengths and weaknesses.’

The Oakdale Agricultural scholar was then handed the captaincy of a strong SA Schools side. Unfortunately, they were beaten by the SA Academy side and Stander admits the players were disappointed with their efforts.

‘Everyone had very high expectations. We wanted to win and put on a good display. It was disappointing to lose, but at the same time, it was a good experience.

‘We started out playing as a team, but when things weren’t going our way we played more as individuals. We diverted from our game plan and began to play loose and that cost us in the end.’

Stander’s performances at Craven Week and with the SA Schools side earned him a contract with the Bull Bulls Rugby Union. The youngster admits it was impossible to turn the offer down.

‘I grew up in a Blue Bulls household and it has always been a dream of mine to play for them.

‘They are a great union and they look after their young players. I think it’s a really good place for a young loose forward to develop.’

Stander has an excellent turn of speed and is a strong ball carrier while he believes one of his greatest strengths is his ability to read the game, much like his role model, Bulls and Springbok No 8 Pierre Spies.

In 2009, Stander hopes to be involved with the SA U20 side that will compete in the Junior World Championship in Japan while at the same time trying to establish himself at the Bulls.

‘I know they have some very good loosies, so I’ll first be aiming to get into the U19 side, but it would be great if I could move up steadily through the ranks. I’d love to play Vodacom Cup and then Currie Cup rugby.’