Wednesday 28 September 2016

CJ Stander aiming for 'ultimate' honour of making the Lions tour to New Zealand

Declan Rooney

Published 22/09/2016 | 02:30

Munster's CJ Stander. Photo by Sam Barnes/Sportsfile
Munster's CJ Stander. Photo by Sam Barnes/Sportsfile

CJ Stander says he is gunning for a spot in Warren Gatland's Lions squad and his bid for the tour begins on Saturday against Edinburgh.

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The South African-born back-row made a successful impact in his first international rugby season and wants to kick on and achieve more in year two.

But after watching Lions greats of the past during his youth in George, Stander is keen to rediscover his best form for Munster and force his way into Gatland's plans.

"When I was a youngster I saw these teams coming to South Africa and you think that's the ultimate. It's class to get in there," he said. "When I arrived here it wasn't really in my mind but then everyone started talking about it and it can happen, so it's a goal. It depends how good I can perform.

"I always set goals. Firstly, I just wanted to get back through pre-season and get all the niggles gone. Then I started thinking about the next goals; performing for Munster week in, week out, getting used to the pace.

"Then at international level, getting onto to that plane to go to Chicago and playing New Zealand. They're on a good streak now so that will be some match to be involved in."

Massive

The prospect of taking on the seemingly unbeatable world champions for Ireland this autumn is a massive challenge for Stander and his international team-mates.

"They're just blowing everyone away. I watch all the games to see what they're doing. They've got a good game-plan, they use their hands and they're physical and they're very fit. They just use their fitness to put teams away in the last 20 minutes.

"I reckon you have to go into the second half of a game against them leading by at least 12 points otherwise they're going to make life pretty difficult. So I'll just keep on watching and see what they do, see if they're anything we can jump into".

For Munster, they will be aiming for a first home win of the season when they welcome Edinburgh to Thomond Park this Saturday.

Their loss to Cardiff by one point in Cork was a real setback, but Stander says they are ready to take on Edinburgh at their strongest point: up front.

"Everybody says about their physicality and that's what we expect from Edinburgh," he said. "Their pack are very physical and if your maul is not set or your lineout is not on par they're going to take your ball away from you.

"Their scrum, they've got the starting front-row for Scotland the last few years and a guy like WP Nel there who's class in his position, so we have to look after all those aspects."

Irish Independent

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