Tuesday 23 January 2018

Stander: If my team is not doing well, neither am I

Munster Player of the Year CJ Stander with INM Head of Sport Content David Courtney and INM Marketing Director Geoff Lyons (right). Cathal Noonan / Inpho
Munster Player of the Year CJ Stander with INM Head of Sport Content David Courtney and INM Marketing Director Geoff Lyons (right). Cathal Noonan / Inpho
Cian Tracey

Cian Tracey

CJ Stander allows himself a brief moment to take stock of his personal achievements this season but given Munster's shortcomings, the self-appraisal is a mere fleeting thought.

A week after picking up the IRUPA Player's Player of the Year award, Stander was yesterday named as Munster's Player of the Year for the second year running.

In a disappointing season for Munster, Stander was outstanding, as was Rory Scannell who was named as the province's Young Player of the Year as well as Academy Player of the Year.

Winning awards has become customary for Stander, but it hasn't been an easy road to get to where he is.

"The players' award is definitely the one that's huge for me," the South African-born flanker said.

"It's a highlight of my career and it's something that I realise I have to celebrate a bit more.

"It's been a rollercoaster year at Munster but on a personal level it's been good. I just feel that all the hard work and all the disappointments and the stuff I missed, it's all worth it.

"Seeing my family once a year. . . leaving them behind was a big support structure on both sides - my family and my family-in-law.

"Sacrifices like leaving the farm. Also, I've missed my brother growing up and my parents getting older. I'm missing my best friends' weddings and stuff like that."

Stander was named captain this season with Peter O'Mahony ruled out for the entire campaign, and although it's a responsibility that he has shouldered well, it's also one that appears to have weighed heavily on his mind.

"This year for me personally, being captain of the team, I got a lot of learnings from that," he explained.

"Not just looking after yourself but looking after other players and also younger players and coaches.

"As the games went on and we were in the slump, different people stepped up and took the bull by the horns.

"It's been good on a personal level but you can't really reflect that into the team because everyone is disappointed. If the team doesn't do good and you're the captain, you're not doing good.

"Ending up sixth (in the Pro12 table) was a big disappointment. It's not where the team wanted to end up but I think we had a lot of stress, anxiety and a lot of new learnings and challenges.

"It was very tough. In the end we were just happy to finish on a high and gather ourselves for next season."

As for Scannell, who now graduates to a development contract, Stander is predicting an exciting future for the young centre.

"I thought he was going to take all three (awards)," Stander said. "I saw his mum and dad and I thought 'oh man, he's going to take all of them!'.

"He's stepped up and for a guy who was still on an Academy contract coming into the squad, it wasn't easy.

"Making the 12 jersey your own isn't easy and standing up in meetings as a leader and saying what's right.

"If Rory plays good, we all play good. He brings another dimension to the team. We needed that and he's really stepped up. I think he has a massive, bright future ahead of him."

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