Stander ready for Springbok onslaught
CJ Stander says he is ready to deal with whatever the Springboks throw at him in the next three weeks as he prepares to face the country of his birth for the first time as an Ireland player.
The Munster captain is expecting some "nasty Afrikaaners words" and physical treatment when he takes to the Newlands pitch for next Saturday's first Test, but he insists that he will be able to focus on his job and ignore the emotion of the occasion. Instead, he is relishing the chance to play international rugby in front of his parents for the first time.
Stander was one of Ireland's outstanding performers in his first Six Nations and later picked up the IRUPA players'-player-of-the-year award and the Munster player-of-the-year award.
A former captain of the South Africa U-20s, he knows what's coming but has no regrets about his decision to move to Ireland in 2012 and pledge his future to his adopted nation.
"The biggest thing for me is that I am playing in front of the family. My mum, my dad, my grandfather, my family in law," he said in an exclusive interview in today's Irish Independent.
"Just going out there and playing against the Springboks, I'm excited about this. They're going to be massive games, some of the biggest of my career.
"I have to look after myself and the team, you have to play your game and not really go out to try and prove a point."
He has spoken to Richardt Strauss about how he was targeted when he faced his home country in 2012 and is ready.
"I'm not a No 10 or a No 9 or a centre, to really be targeted to make a difference in the game," he said. "I'll probably get a few words, a few digs but those guys have a new coach, new structures and their game is going to be in their heads. They have to concentrate on themselves.
"It's the same to me, I'm concentrating on myself. I'll probably get a few nasty Afrikaans words, but I can understand and shrug it off. "
Meanwhile, the prospect of Paul O'Connell working with Munster next season appears to have moved closer after he reportedly turned down a role at French club Grenoble.
The IRFU are in talks with the former Ireland captain who could be in line for a recruitment role with his old team.