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‘I haven’t been as excited for a Test since I played’ – CJ Stander

By Jon Newcombe
CAPE TOWN, SOUTH AFRICA - JUNE 11: CJ Stander of Ireland receives a red card during the 1st Castle Lager Incoming Series Test match between South Africa and Ireland at DHL Newlands Stadium on June 11, 2016 in Cape Town, South Africa. (Photo by Luke Walker/Gallo Images/Getty Images)

As an Afrikaner by birth and a former Ireland international, CJ Stander is one of the few people to have a foot in both camps when South Africa take on Ireland this weekend in a battle between the world’s two best teams. The 34-year-old’s daughter even has a rugby shirt with the green of South Africa on one half and the green of Ireland on the other.


Ireland have only beaten South Africa in South Africa once before, in June 2016, and Stander was playing at Newlands that day. Ireland won 22-16, despite formidable back-rower seeing red in the first half for an aerial collision with Pat Lambie.

Whilst South Africa have won twice as many games as Ireland (18-9), the latter are bidding to win four on the bounce against the Boks for the first time ever, and Stander believes both sides chances of winning are not far off 50:50, although altitude could be the telling factor in the home side’s favour.

Speaking on the latest episode of Boks Office, the formidable back-row forward admitted that Saturday afternoon’s match at Loftus Versfeld between the world champions and an Ireland team looking to knock them off their perch in the world rankings cannot come soon enough.

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“I haven’t been as excited for a Test since I played, there is a lot on the line,” he said.

“If Ireland comes out physical, and they play a physical game, same game as Munster played (in a URC win against the Bulls) – physical up front and put it behind them, they will win. You’re talking about a three-point game.

“But I think it is going to be a tough ask to win in Loftus. Even I say if you are not used to altitude it’s tough for you, tough for your lungs.

“The choice of Pretoria first is a good one (for South Africa) because I think Ireland are going to struggle. I won’t say it is going to be an ambush but it is a difficult place to play.


“A lot of guys haven’t experienced altitude and it is not a thing you pick up in a week or so, you have to get used to it for years.”

South Africa v Ireland Head-to-Head record

When pressed for a series prediction, Stander believes it will end up all-square at 1-1. “I think they’ll take Durban.”

Whilst the teams can barely be separated, the former Munster man is also split right down the middle when asked to say which team is the best supported.


“The Irish are so passionate about the game. Just look at the stadiums. Take Munster, for example, 20,000 people turn up every weekend, it doesn’t matter what team they are playing, the place is packed. They travel the whole world.

“I know of Irish people who are here, probably a thousand to 1,200 people that text me … and there’s surely more that I don’t even know.

“The other side of it is that the Springbok supporters are passionate; there is no difference on the rugby side in the culture.

“I take my little one to school and it’s Bok Friday and she is wearing a jersey that I have got her, it’s half-Irish, half-Springbok.”


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Jmann 15 days ago

weren’t excited for the RWC 1/4 final then?.. s’pose not.

Barry 15 days ago

CJ was a little too excited for the first test in 2016 from what I remember.

That poor Lambie fella got emptied. Proper brain injury stuff.

Francois 15 days ago

Best player Ireland have ever had, ole CJ Stander.
And that Jean Kleyn was bloody brilliant too!
Jameson Gibson-Park is fantastic also.
Bundee Aki is right up there with the best of them.
As is James Lowe.
And Mack Hansen.
And Rob Herring.
And dont forget Quinn Roux many years ago.
And lets not forget their coaches!
Andy Farrell!
Joe Schmidt!!
And to a lesser degree at club level, building the foundations of Irish rugby, the likes of Rassie Erasmus for Munster, then Johan van Graan for Munster!
Stuart Lancaster for Leinster!
Jacques Nienaber for Leinster!
How blessed Ireland are to be such a conveyor belt of talent and rugby IP!
Other nations can but marvel in awe!
And don’t forget, the Irish have, in their long and proud rugby history, NEVER LOST a Rugby World Cup semi-final or a Rugby World Cup final!
Fantasic record!
AND they have gone into the last 2 Rugby World Cups as the number one ranked team in the world and really made that count for them!
Not many nations can brag with this magnificent rugby pedigree folks.

Blair 15 days ago

I get the home town advantage being a positive for the boks but all commentary also talks about the altitude being a positive for them as well.

As a fan of neither team, surely the altitude should benefit the Irish being the much fitter/aerobic team. Yes the boks have experience playing there but they resort to slowing the game down tactics at sea level for their forwards to catch a breath, I would have thought it’s a lot tougher for them to do 80 minutes at altitude

steve 15 days ago

I'm no Irish fan, but you'd think they could have used any other picture than him getting red carded

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