CJ Stander warned to expect a hostile homecoming
Ex-Bok Delport predicts difficult test for Irish convert, writes David Kelly
CJ Stander and his fellow South African recruits in green will face a hostile environment when they return to their homeland for the first time this month, according to former Springbok Thinus Delport.
Former South Africa U-20 captain Stander is the only exile to make Joe Schmidt's side for the opening Test in Newlands tomorrow afternoon since forging a career in Munster after being told he was too small to make it in his homeland.
There is considerably more interest in his return in 2016 compared to the diffidence that greeted his departure to Ireland in 2012. "He's an impressive player, and when given the opportunity this year, he took it," says Delport.
"He's a typical hard-nosed South African loose-forward, he was probably thought of as too small in South African rugby in the past and has decided to pursue his career elsewhere.
"He's from good stock, he's had a good upbringing in terms of his rugby credentials. Unfortunately in South Africa we always have an unlimited stock of loose-forwards. . . he decided to go elsewhere and fair play to him.
"He's made a brilliant career - he offers a ball-carrying option as well.
"Those guys left South Africa for a reason, they will have their critics in South Africa; the fact is that they decided to leave to pursue their careers elsewhere and have been successful.
"There's also a lot of pressure on Richardt Strauss (whose cousin, Adriaan, captains the home side from hooker) because they're family.
"They can expect a bit of hostile reception, the guys will put a lot of pressure on them in the media and from the supporters, and surely on the field there'll be some words being said.
"A lot of these guys have history going back to schooldays when they played against each other, so it's certainly going to be more than just a physical challenge to them, it's going to be the mental approach that they take."
Ireland will also field a naturalised New Zealander and Delport is not alone within the international rugby community who believes that World Rugby's residency rules need to be changed as a matter of urgent credibility.
"It's the modern game and you've got to utilise your resources according to the current rules and regulations," he says.
"Gus Pichot has clearly stated that it's one of the rules and regulations that World Rugby is going to start looking at.
"I feel if you are a professional player, you've got to pursue your career wherever the options arise.
"Certainly I feel three years is a little bit short. If you do leave your country of birth and decide to pursue a career elsewhere, it's got to be a little bit longer before you qualify for that country.
"You can play for another country before you can even become a citizen, so it's got to be more on a par with the immigration regulations of a country."
Ireland have never won a Test on South African soil and Delport is not optimistic about the chances for Schmidt's side.
"It's going to be very difficult. It's the end of a very long season, after the disappointment at World Cup," he says. "The first Test is going to be a close affair but then the fatigue levels are going to step in, South Africa will find their feet and the second Test is in Johannesburg at high altitude.
"The key thing is the missing men in terms of Sexton and the outside backs missing - they have guys who have stepped in have performed at Pro12 level but Test level is a big step up."
Sky Sports 1 will have exclusive live action of all three Irish Tests in South Africa, with coverage starting from 3.30pm and kick-off at 4.00pm