Stander ready to shine in red again
It has been a year to remember for CJ Stander and this week the honours kept on flowing for the South African native, who was named the Guinness Rugby Writers' of Ireland Player of the Year.
Already in 2016, Stander has been named as Munster's Player of the Year as well as IRUPA's Players' Player of the Year, as the personal accolades pile up for the big No 8.
As well as all those honours, Stander made his Ireland senior debut in February against Wales in the Six Nations, while he also represented Joe Schmidt's side on a tour of his homeland during the summer - a red card there was a big blow for him - and he started in the win over New Zealand in Chicago.
It has been quite a year for the powerful back-rower and he says he is happy with the progress in his game after a year of ups and downs.
"I would say this last year has also been one of the toughest of my rugby career, with all the stuff that happened," said Stander. "The passing away of the big man, Axel, was very tough and I won't put that behind me, but the South Africa thing, the red card, it was one of my worst days. But the team won and for the first time won in South Africa so there was a bigger picture and it was about the team, not about yourself.
"You can't go into a corner and feel bad for yourself if you're not going to perform the next week you still have to give the boys in green your best training during the week, get out of your shell.
"That's the biggest thing I've learned; as long as you work hard for the people around you, they'll pick you up, especially in this Ireland group and the group down in Munster. They're special people, very special people."
With Peter O'Mahony back for Munster, Stander is happy to hand the captain's duties back to his colleague, but he will surely have a massive role to play in a key eight weeks of the season ahead.