CJ Stander says Munster’s ‘no-fear’ attitude can help end trophy drought in URC decider

CJ Stander in Munster's colours. Photo: Sportsfile© SPORTSFILE

Cian Tracey

CJ Stander believes Munster’s fresh mindset of playing with “no fear” has put his former team on the cusp of winning the province’s first trophy in 12 years.

Munster were handed a major boost prior to their departure to Cape Town for Saturday’s BKT United Rugby Championship (URC) final against the Stormers, as RG Snyman, Conor Murray, Malakai Fekitoa, Calvin Nash, Ben Healy and Jean Kleyn were included in the 30-strong squad.

All six players suffered head injuries in recent weeks, but are expected to be available for selection for a huge game that Stander (33) insists can finally be the one to end Munster’s long wait for silverware.

“The squad has changed but the core is still there and we’ve been talking about evolving for the last eight, nine years now, and it’s good to see that talent come to the top now with Graham (Rowntree) taking over from Johann (van Graan),” said Stander, who played 156 games in the back-row for Munster before his shock retirement two years ago.

“I think the difference is the talent coming through with no fear, looking to attack games and with the leadership that they have in Pete (O’Mahony) and (Keith) Earlsy.

“Their lineout is performing well, the ball is going wide and guys like Calvin Nash and Shane Daly are getting a bit more ball in hand. There’s a sense of there’s almost no fear.

“Watching them playing the Stormers in Cape Town a few weeks ago they just kept on doing their thing, kept on knocking on the door and they came out victorious at the end of it. So there’s a sense of no fear, ‘Let’s go and do that jersey proud’.

“I heard that was what was used and it was successful.”

Having played alongside him at different stages of his career, CJ Stander and Jean de Villiers have a good understanding of what makes Peter O’Mahony tick.

And the former Munster pair are in no doubt that O’Mahony can captain his home province to a trophy for the first time, as his side look to dethrone the defending champions Stormers, in Saturday’s URC final in Cape Town.

Stander, who played with O’Mahony in the same Munster and Ireland back-row, hailed the Cork man’s leadership qualities.

“Peter O’Mahony is a leader. He is one of those guys that demands everything and anything from you all the time. And it’s not by the way he talks, or what he says, it’s by actions.

“He’s a hard man, he plays the game hard, and going into this weekend, he would give his everything just to be there firstly, and to make sure that he leads the charge.

“He is the guy that brings the physicality and the guy that goes around the pitch and makes sure he gets his own team up for it and gets under the skin of the other team as well.

“You can see that week-in, week-out. He grew up there. I know I’m fed up of not winning anything with Munster when I was there and it is something that sticks in the back of your head all the time.

“The rest of the guys, the 29 others on the plane, they know about this, they know he is the type of guy they want to give everything to, for that game to have that trophy, for that hard work and sacrifice for Munster for the last ten or 12 years.”

De Villiers, who had one season with Munster, was there when O’Mahony was first breaking through as a youngster.

“Pete actually made his debut the year I was there and even back then, the guys were saying that this is someone who is really going to make it in the Munster set-up, he’s an up-and-coming leader,” the legendary former Springbok centre added.

“As an individual, he certainly fulfilled that role and lived up to expectations. Unfortunately, not winning for Munster, that is something you can’t just add to the script that you want to be successful. And I can say that with experience because I never won a trophy with Western Province or the Stormers.

“That’s unfortunately life, that’s unfortunately rugby. You get opportunities and it is about making the most of it when in that position.

“Him being captain and being such a passionate captain, he’ll be able to get that through to the youngsters and make them realise that opportunities do not come along every day and you think you’re 21, 22, 23 you’ll get opportunities again, but then in the blink of an eye you find yourself at 33 and your trophy cabinet is still empty.

“It’s about making the most of the opportunity that is in front of them now and I’m sure he’ll get that message across to the whole team.”