Monday 23 April 2018

'Great leader' Stander ready to thrive with Ireland, says Foley

Munster's CJ Stande. Photo: Diarmuid Greene / SPORTSFILE
Munster's CJ Stande. Photo: Diarmuid Greene / SPORTSFILE
Ruaidhri O'Connor

Ruaidhri O'Connor

Joe Schmidt will name his Six Nations squad on either Wednesday or Thursday and it will be a major surprise if the name Christiaan Johan Stander isn't on the list.

The really interesting thing will be to watch how the Ireland coach chooses to use the Munster captain in the weeks to come. Does he pitch him in from the start against Wales and if so where? Or will he hold the dynamic ball-carrier in reserve to make an impact off the bench.

Certainly, his form demands inclusion after yet another man of the match display at Thomond Park on Saturday and his head coach Anthony Foley would have no hesitation in pitching him in at Test level against Wales in three weeks' time.

"None whatsoever," he said.

"He's a great man, and the player comes out of that. He's been banging on for weeks. If we get more people like that, people follow that.

"And I think the supporters are starting to connect with him now and they're starting to see what he's about, and it's the grit and the hard work.

"It's not just the big carries. He's good out on the pitch. Him being captain this year obviously wasn't something that we foresaw. It wasn't a plan until Peter's (O'Mahony) knee went, so we needed to figure out who was the man to lead this because this group would be used to big leaders, big physical, demanding men that lead but also make sense in what they're trying to get out of it, and I think CJ is getting there, and he's going to be a great leader going forward."

No one appears to have borne the burden of Munster's recent struggles more than Stander himself and the relief was palpable on the skipper's face.

He must also draw satisfaction from the fact that he could not be doing more to put his name in the shake-up for international honours.

"It's good to get those individual awards but I just want to lead this team from the front," he said.

"It doesn't matter what happens, if we lost, if we win; I just want to lead the team by how I play, by actions, not by words. I am probably a different leader from the legend Paul (O'Connell) and I just want to be in front of the charge. If the boys can follow me that is happy days. To get another man of the match, look it is good but that is just individual stuff.

"I said when I got the three years (residency) out of the way that I just wanted to stick up my hand and my hand is there. If I get selected it's good, but in my game there is a lot of stuff I still need to work on. I just want to put my hand up. To get picked in the team you just need to put your hand up and to be an option."

Foley, meanwhile, has conceded that BJ Botha has likely played his final game for Munster after the tighthead prop ruptured his anterior cruciate ligament last week.

"He's been a great servant for us and he's in and around the group at the moment. He's a very good character, he demands a lot around the scrum and the maul particularly; he loves that part of the game," he said.

The injury leaves Munster short on that side of the scrum, with Stephen Archer's recovery still some way away.

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