Maybe 3 or so years before I even thought I would writing a tribute to CJ Stander here I am, he has just announced his retirement from professional rugby when his current contract ends in June. He has made the decision to return to South Africa for personal reasons.
He has played over 150 times for Munster and will most likely win cap number 51 against England in Dublin this Saturday in the 6 Nations. He toured with the Lions in 2017 in New Zealand and was part of the squad in the drawn series.
He joined Munster back in 2012 aged 22, scoring a cracking try vs Glasgow in Limerick in the Pro 12 as it was then to really announce himself to the Munster faithful and has done every time he has pulled on the Munster shirt, Irish jersey and the Lions shirt in 2017.
He has shown incredible durability in the 9 years since he joined and has rarely not been involved in Munster squads since fully establishing himself when James Coughlan left to go to France.
He has played number 8 and also at Blindside Flanker number 6. The same consistency of selection has happened at national level with Ireland since his 1st cap in 2016. He has been a real leader for Munster and Ireland and has lead from the front for both teams in the past 9 years.
He can look back at his time in Ireland will real satisfaction and genuine fondness… He still has 3 months to go before he departs for South Africa. He will face Leinster in the RDS in another Pro 14 Final and then play Toulouse on April 3rd in Thomond Park in the last 16 of the Champions Cup injury permitting of course.
Time now to focus on England this weekend and then Leinster in the Pro 14 Final… Some big games ahead for CJ and his team mates…
Just a word to CJ and his family. I was fortunate to speak to Jean Marie CJ’s wife in 2016 about her own sporting career, her move to Limerick with CJ and more… Thanks to CJ for all the memories and let’s hope there is more to come before CJ departs the scene in June….