CJ Stander has hit back at claims by his former coach Rassie Erasmus that Ireland are “softies”.
The stinging criticism, which was made during the build-up to South Africa beating Wales in last year’s World Cup semi-final, only came to light recently in a behind-the-scenes documentary.
Stander is one of the main leaders in the Ireland pack, and his team invariably look to him for go-forward ball. Having worked under Erasmus during his time in charge of Munster, Stander knows the esteem in which his compatriot is held, but the “softies” jibe has not gone down well with the Ireland international.
“It is a bit of a challenge because that is his view and that is his belief. I would like to, not really prove him wrong, but I’d like to show him what we can do and what we have done before,” Stander said.
“That is a big statement to make. He put it out there so, you know, that’s his prerogative. That’s what he thought of us. It is not going to be easy to change his view but, luckily, we are not playing against them this week. We will get them at some stage.”
Ireland’s ability to live with one of the most powerful teams in the world will be tested against England at Twickenham this weekend.
After dispatching Wales – described by Erasmus – as “tough f****rs”, the Springboks went on to beat England in last year’s World Cup final.
And Stander is ready for the physical test that awaits in London on Saturday.
“I will tell you this: you can only be physical if you know what you are doing,” he insisted. “We have had a good week. We prepared well. We know what we are going to do.
“Again, scrum down, set-piece, get that flowing, get that going, get off the line and bring the physicality we can bring. You can’t go out there and straight away look for physicality. It is international rugby. I am looking forward to the battle. We will see after Saturday and we can talk about that again.
“If we can get our set-piece going and make sure we get off the line, that will get us into the game.
“We can work from there. We have played against them a few times. The arm wrestle will come. It is just about who adapts to it better at certain times on the pitch.”
Stander was one of the few who brought the fight to England back in February, as he went toe-to-toe with the likes of Maro Itoje and Owen Farrell, which inevitably caused plenty of flashpoints.
“Was there? Only joking,” Stander smiled. “I probably got caught at the wrong time in the wrong place,
“Against England, they try to get into the game that way. It is up to each individual, what you bring to the game and how you deal with that situation.
“Look, if there is a scuffle and I am in the middle of it, I know I am backed by the team and so is everyone else.”
Stander will start at blindside this weekend to allow Caelan Doris to continue in his more natural No 8 berth. Despite the positional switch, Stander is comfortable with what is being asked of him.
“Not a lot of changes for me. Literally it is just a number on the back. I can play a few positions,” he added.
“He (Doris) has got good footwork, a big work rate; last weekend he made the job very easy for the rest of the back-row.
“That touch he had for Cian’s (Healy) try, almost, was a nice touch he brought to his game. He is a competitor.
“Monday and Tuesday training is very competitive. And that’s what you need . . . he has upped the work rate for the whole back-row.