Sunday 4 December 2016

'I've packed Barry's Tea for South African tour'

Chrissie Russell

Published 11/06/2016 | 02:30

Jean-Marié Stander at home in Limerick. Photo: Mark Condren
Jean-Marié Stander at home in Limerick. Photo: Mark Condren

If anyone has any doubts about the Irish credentials of CJ Stander and his wife, they just need to check her suitcase.

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As the Ireland rugby team kicks off their three-week tour of South Africa today, Jean-Marié has packed that most essential of home comforts - tea.

"I've actually brought over some Barry's Tea from Ireland," she laughed. "In my time here, I've gone from taking things like biltong and rusks over from South Africa, to now bringing things over from Ireland instead."

Today's game in Cape Town will be the first time her husband has donned the Ireland jersey to play in the country that they left together four years ago to start a new life in Limerick.

Law graduate Jean-Marié (26) says they're prepared for some hostility from Springbok supporters.

"We're definitely prepared for a bit of 'friendly' abuse but we won't be taking any of it too seriously," she said.

CJ during Ireland training in Cape Town. Photo: Sportsfile
CJ during Ireland training in Cape Town. Photo: Sportsfile

"I've learned with abuse that the best thing is to pay no attention, they want a reaction from you.

"We're confident in the decisions CJ has made. We love Ireland and we've been supporting Ireland for quite some time now, so it will be business as usual - cheering for Ireland as loud as we can."

The couple moved in 2012 when CJ signed for Munster. Under the residency rule, he became eligible to play for Ireland after three years living in the country.

Part of the reason for the move was being told he was too short to play the position he loved.

But according to Jean-Marié, he's not out to prove anything to his critics in South Africa.

"At first, it was a massive motivation for him to prove people wrong, those who said he wasn't big enough to play flank or eighth man," explains Jean-Marié. "But since playing for Ireland in the Six Nations, his focus has shifted. Now he's playing to prove to himself that he is good enough to play internationally."

Ireland, she says emphatically, is not a second choice for them. It is now firmly considered home.

"All I can say is look at the passion CJ plays with for Ireland, he has adopted Ireland as his country."

And as a competitive swimmer, she plans to follow his example.

Jean-Marié - whose brother Ryk Neethling won a gold for South Africa swimming in the 2004 Olympics - had to abandon hopes of competing in Rio because of a shoulder injury.

But she revealed: "If I were to compete again, I would definitely want to represent Ireland."

Irish Independent

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