Stander confirms Ireland dream

Blue Bulls flank CJ Stander’s move to Munster could see him playing for Ireland at the next World Cup.

Stander has been rated as one of the top young loose forwards in the country.

The 22-year-old was one of seven young players (others included Siya Kolisi, Frans Malherbe, Francois Venter, Arno Botha and Piet van Zyl) who trained with the Springboks during the June Test series against England. He captained the Baby Boks at the 2010 Junior World Championship, and made the SA Schools and SA Schools Academy squads as a schoolboy in 2008 and 2007 respectively.

He’s also featured in Super Rugby and the Currie Cup for the Bulls this season.

However, the player announced a surprise decision to sign a two-year deal with Munster earlier this year. The length of the deal might indicate a possible return in 2014, but Stander confirmed he could extend his stay in Ireland.

‘I know I shocked many people with my decision to join Munster, but I saw it as a great career move,’ Stander told keo.co.za. ‘I thought I’d spend most of my career at the Bulls, but I’m not happy with the game time I’m getting. I have started a few matches, but there are Springboks and older players who are ahead of me in the current pecking order. So I don’t have an established place in the starting team.

‘I told my agent about this, and he told me Munster wanted to offer me a deal. I was immediately interested as Munster are one of the top three clubs in the world. Many players have gone overseas early in their career and have become better rugby players because of their experience in the physical European leagues, like Frans Steyn.

‘Munster only offer their players two-year deals, so I’ve agreed to that,’ Stander continued. ‘I’m not sure what my final decision will be when my contract expires, but I am interested in playing for Ireland if the opportunity comes my way.’

However, Stander did confirm that the Springboks would be his first choice. But he doesn’t feel that he’s part of head coach Heyneke Meyer’s current plans.

‘I’m not part of the squad in the Rugby Championship, so I’m not sure where my future lies with regards to the Boks. Of course it’s my dream to play for South Africa – it’s every schoolboy’s dream. But I want to play Test rugby, and it might have to come via Ireland.’

There are several other South Africans who could feature for foreign nations in the near future.

At the moment, lock Mouritz Botha and centre Brad Barritt are in the England squad. Former Lions loose forward Ernst Joubert has also recently qualified to don the Red Rose.

Cardiff Blues captain Andries Pretorius and Leinster hooker Richardt Strauss are expected to get Test call-ups for Wales and Ireland respectively. Former Lions captain Josh Strauss recently made the move to Glasgow Warriors two weeks ago, with the intention to qualify for Scotland in time for the next World Cup.

By Gareth Duncan