|Name CJ Stander|
Career start 2010
Role Rugby Player
Spouse Jean-Marie Neethling
|Height 1.89 m|
Education University of Pretoria
Weight 114 kg
|Similar People BJ Botha, Joe Schmidt, Bundee Aki|
CJ Stander Tribute - 2017
Christiaan Johan 'CJ' Stander (born 5 April 1990) is a South African rugby union player, who represents Ireland after qualifying through residency. He can play either as a flanker or number 8. He played for Blue Bulls in the Currie Cup between 2010 and 2012 and for the Bulls in Super Rugby in 2012. He moved to Irish province Munster in 2012 and made his debut for Ireland in 2016. In 2017, Stander was also selected for the British and Irish Lions.
- CJ Stander Tribute 2017
- Early life
- Youth rugby
- Personal life
- International analysis by opposition
Stander was born in George, South Africa, where his family owned a farm. Prior to focusing on rugby, Stander was a champion discus thrower as a teenager.
Stander went to Blanco Primary School, where he began playing rugby at the age of nine, playing as a fly-half. He then went to Hoër Landbouskool Oakdale (Oakdale Agricultural High School), where he shifted into the number eight position at the age of 14.
He earned provincial colours for three consecutive years, representing the SWD Eagles at youth tournaments. In 2006, he played for them at the Under-16 Grant Khomo Week held in Wellington, Western Cape. He started all three of their matches at the tournament, helping them to two victories and a draw.
Despite still being in the Under-17 age group in 2006, Stander was named captain of the SWD team for the premier high schools rugby union tournament in South Africa, the Under-18 Craven Week, held in Stellenbosch. He led from the front, scoring two tries against the Leopards, one try against KwaZulu-Natal and a hat-trick in their final match against the Griffons to finish as the tournament's top try scorer. His performances caught the attention of the national team selectors, and Stander was named in and appointed captain of the South Africa Schools Academy side, playing the full 80 minutes in a 15–50 defeat to the more senior South Africa Schools side.
Stander was again named captain of SWD for the 2008 Craven Week, which was held at Afrikaanse Hoër Seunskool in Pretoria. He helped them to a 26–21 victory over hosts the Blue Bulls in their first match, before scoring two tries in a 30–13 victory over the Pumas in their second match and one try in a 31–25 victory against the Free State in the main match of the tournament, as SWD was crowned the unofficial champions for the first time since 2001. At the conclusion of the tournament, Stander was named in the South Africa Schools squad, but ended on the wrong side of a shock result as the secondary Schools Academy side beat them 41–19 in a match played in Durban.
After high school, Stander moved to Pretoria to join the academy of Currie Cup side the Blue Bulls for the 2009 season onwards. Before he experienced any game-time in a Blue Bulls jersey, however, he was named in the South Africa Under-20 team to compete at the 2010 IRB Junior World Championship in Japan. He started all of their matches in the number eight jersey; he scored his country's first try of the tournament in a 36–10 victory against Fiji in the opening match, before helping them two further victories in Pool C, beating Italy 65–3 and France 43–27. Despite scoring his second try of the tournament in their semi-final match against England, he could not help them reach the final, losing the match 21–40. The team eventually finished third in the tournament, winning their final match of the tournament 32–5 against fellow beaten semi-finalists Australia.
He initially found himself fast-tracked into their Under-21 team, starting their first four matches in the Under-21 Provincial Championship, before then reverting to the Under-19 team. He scored two tries against Leopards U19 in his first match at that level, as he helped the team qualify for the semi-finals by winning all six of their matches to top the log. Despite making two further appearances for the Under-21s and scoring a try for them against the Leopards, he represented the Under-19s in the play-offs, but the team failed to get past their trans-Jukskei rivals the Golden Lions at the semi-final stage.
At the start of 2010, Stander was included in the Blue Bulls squad for the 2010 Vodacom Cup, and – after being an unused replacement in the team's 27–22 victory over the Golden Lions XV – made his debut in their 50–7 victory over the Falcons in Kempton Park in Round Five of the competition, coming on in the 63rd minute of the match.
However, that turned out to be his only involvement in the competition, as he once again linked up with the South Africa Under-20 team, being named as captain for the team due to compete in the 2010 IRB Junior World Championship. For the second Junior World Championship in a row, Stander scored a try in South Africa's opening match, as they secured 40–14 win over Tonga in their first match. He captained them to a 73–0 victory over Scotland, before being involved in South Africa's first ever defeat in a pool match at the Junior World Championships, as they lost 35–42 to Australia. Despite the result, South Africa qualified for the semi-finals as the best pool runner-up, but lost again at that stage against eventual champions New Zealand. Stander started his fifth match of the competition in his side's 27–22 victory over England in the third-place play-off to emulate their 2009 finish.
Stander returned to domestic rugby for the Blue Bulls by featuring in a compulsory friendly match against the Mighty Elephants. He was catapulted into their senior squad for the 2010 Currie Cup Premier Division and made his Currie Cup debut on 9 July 2010 – aged 20 years, 95 days – coming on as a replacement in their 38–15 victory over the Pumas. He made appearances off the bench in their next six matches before making his first Currie Cup start in a 39–38 victory over Griquas in their Round Seven match. He made a further four starts and two appearances as a replacement, but with players like Danie Rossouw returning from international duty, dropped back into the Blue Bulls U21 team. He made one start for them during the Under-21 Provincial Championship regular season, scoring a try in their 41–36 victory over Leopards U21. The team finished second on the log to qualify for the semi-finals, and Stander started both their 39–35 victory over the Sharks U21s in the semi-final and the final, which Stander's team lost 32–43 to Western Province U21.
After his single appearance in the Vodacom Cup in 2010, Stander saw more action in that competition in 2011. He took part in all of the Blue Bulls' eleven matches in the competition, making six starts and coming on as a replacement in the other five. He started off the season by scoring a try in their opening match against a Sharks XV, but failed to get on the scoreboard again for the remainder of the regular season, as the Blue Bulls won just three of their eight matches, but still finished in fourth place in the Northern Section to secure the final quarter final place. He started their quarter final match, which ended in a 28–26 victory over the Golden Lions, and appeared as a replacement in against Griquas in the semi-final, scoring his team's final try in a 47–34 win. He played in the final against the Pampas XV, but could not prevent the Argentine invitational side from winning 14–9 to be crowned champions for the first time.
Stander again featured in a compulsory friendly match prior to the 2011 Currie Cup, scoring two tries in a 50–19 victory over the Griffons in Welkom. After playing off the bench in their first three matches of the Currie Cup season, he then made the number eight jersey his own, being named in the run-on side for all of their remaining matches. He contributed six tries to the team's cause – against the Leopards in Potchefstroom, against the Sharks, Western Province, the Pumas and two tries in their final match of the regular season, a 92–21 victory over the Leopards in Pretoria. However, the Blue Bulls endured a poor season and failed to qualify for the semi-finals, finishing in fifth spot on the log. With Stander only 21, he dropped to Under-21 and started for them in their two play-off matches in the Under-21 Provincial Championship; he scored a try in a 47–18 victory over the Golden Lions U21s in the semi-finals, and a second in a 46–30 victory over the Sharks U21s in the final, to secure his first silverware since joining the Blue Bulls.
At the start of 2012, Stander was included in the Bulls squad for the first time; they are the Super Rugby franchise affiliated to the Blue Bulls provincial team. He made his Super Rugby debut on 24 February 2012 in an 18–13 victory in their opening match of the season against the Sharks. After a second appearance off the bench against the Cheetahs a week later, Stander made his first start in the competition in a home defeat to New Zealand side the Blues. With Dewald Potgieter and Deon Stegmann missing the majority of the season through injury, Stander firmly established himself in the side and started a further ten matches in a row. He scored his first Super Rugby try in his second start, a 61–8 victory over Australian side the Reds and further tries against the Lions, Brumbies and Rebels. With the Bulls' first-choice flankers all returning from injury for the final three matches of the regular season, Stander dropped to the bench for those matches, as the Bulls secured a place in the play-offs by finishing fifth overall. He dropped out of the matchday squad altogether for their qualifier match against the Crusaders, where a 13–28 defeat ended the Bulls' interest in the competition.
Despite a call-up to train with the South Africa national team as they prepared for the 2012 Rugby Championship, Stander was not included in their final squad and instead continued to represent the Blue Bulls in the Currie Cup. Although his move to Munster was already announced, Stander still featured in all eleven of their matches in the competition. He scored two tries in his first start in the competition against the Free State Cheetahs, and more tries against the Sharks, Griquas and their return match against the Free State Cheetahs. The team finished in fourth place on the log and Stander's final match in a Blue Bulls jersey was their 3–20 defeat to the Sharks in the semi-finals.
In June 2012, Stander signed a deal to join Irish province Munster on a two-year contract at the end of the 2012 Currie Cup Premier Division season. He later revealed that one of the reasons for his move was that he was considered to be too small to be a South Africa international. Left with the options of leaving the country or switching to hooker, Stander recalls "I just made the decision easy and said, 'Well boys, I'll pack up my stuff and leave'. Munster signed me and they didn't think I was too small." As Munster could not sign any more internationally capped players, he was signed as a project player. This means that Stander would be eligible to play for Ireland under IRB residency laws if he stayed with Munster for three years. He arrived in Ireland to join up with the Munster squad on 30 October 2012. Stander made his debut for Munster on 25 November 2012, coming on as a replacement in the Pro12 fixture against Scarlets. He made his first start for Munster against Glasgow Warriors in Thomond Park on 1 December 2012, scoring two tries in a Man-of-the-Match winning performance. Stander was ruled out for a month after breaking a bone in his hand during the Glasgow game. He made his comeback from the injury on 5 January 2013, in a Pro14 game against Cardiff Blues in Musgrave Park. As he was ineligible to represent Munster in the Heineken Cup, Stander instead turned out for Munster A in the British and Irish Cup, playing at Number 8 against Aberavon and Plymouth Albion, scoring a try against the latter. Stander scored his third try in just four appearances for Munster on 9 February 2013, when he made his second start for the club against Edinburgh.
Stander scored his first try in his second season at Munster during an uncapped pre-season friendly against Gloucester on 24 August 2013. He scored two tries in his first full appearance of the season, against Zebre, on 13 September 2013. Stander made his Heineken Cup debut on 12 October 2013, coming off the bench against Edinburgh in Munster's opening pool game. He came off the bench against Gloucester during Munster's 26–10 victory on 19 October 2013. Stander was also a replacement during Munster's 36–8 win against Perpignan on 8 December 2013. He came off the bench in the 7–20 away win against Gloucester on 11 January 2013, a win that secured quarter-final qualification. In January 2014, Stander signed a new two-year contract that will see him remain with Munster until June 2016. Stander scored his seventh try for Munster in a Pro14 fixture against Cardiff Blues on 8 February 2014. He came on as a replacement after 18 minutes for injured captain Peter O'Mahony in Munster's Heineken Cup quarter-final against Toulouse on 5 April 2014, scoring his first Heineken Cup try in the 47–23 win and earning the Man-of-the-Match award. Stander started in Munster's 24–16 semi-final defeat to Toulon on 27 April 2014.
Stander scored two tries in Munster's 13–14 defeat against Edinburgh in their opening Guinness Pro12 game on 5 September 2014. He also scored a try in Munster's win against Treviso on 12 September 2014. Stander started in Munster's first 2014–15 European Rugby Champions Cup game against Sale Sharks on 18 October 2014, earning the Man-of-the-Match award in the 26–27 away win. He started against Saracens in Round 2 of the Champions Cup on 24 October 2014. Stander started the Round 3 game against Clermont Auvergne on 6 December 2014. He also started in the reverse fixture against Clermont on 14 December 2014. Stander scored a try and won the Man-of-the-Match award in Munster's 28–13 win against Leinster on 26 December 2014. He also scored a try in the 7–31 away win against Zebre on 10 January 2015, again winning the Man-of-the-Match award. Stander started against Saracens on 17 January 2015, but went off with an injured ankle in the first-half. The injury ruled Stander out for 4 to 6 weeks. He returned from the injury on 21 February 2015, starting in the game against Scarlets. Stander scored a try in Munster's 22–10 win against Glasgow Warriors on 28 February 2015. He won his fifth Man-of-the-Match award of the season in Munster's 42–20 win against Connacht on 28 March 2015. Stander scored a try in Munster's 3–34 win against Edinburgh on 11 April 2015. He won the 2015 Munster Rugby Senior Player of the Year Award in April 2015, becoming the first overseas player to do so. He scored a try in the 30–19 win against Treviso on 25 April 2015. Stander won the Man-of-the-Match award in Munster's 23–23 draw against Ulster on 9 May 2015. He was named in the 2014–15 Pro12 Dream Team, alongside teammate Tommy O'Donnell. He scored a try in Munster's 50–27 win against Dragons on 16 May 2015. Stander was named Man-of-the-Match in Munster's 21–18 play-off semi-final win against Ospreys on 23 May 2015. He started in the 2015 Pro12 Grand Final against Glasgow Warriors on 30 May 2015.
Stander captained Munster in their opening fixture of the 2015–16 Pro12 against Treviso on 5 September 2015, scoring two tries and earning the Man-of-the-Match award in the 18–13 win for Munster. He came off the bench against Ospreys on 13 September 2015, scoring a try that leveled the scores and allowed Ian Keatley to kick the conversion that won the match for Munster. On 30 October 2015, Stander captained Munster in their 32–38 win against provincial rivals Ulster. On 4 November 2015, it was announced that, in the absence of regular captain Peter O'Mahony, Stander would captain Munster during the pool stage of the 2015–16 European Rugby Champions Cup. He started the opening pool game of the tournament against Treviso on 14 November 2015, scoring a try and earning the Man-of-the-Match award in Munster's 32–7 win. In December 2015, Stander signed a two-year contract extension with Munster, which will see him remain with the province until at least June 2018. Stander started against Leicester Tigers in the Champions Cup on 12 December 2015. On 16 January 2016, Stander scored a try and won the Man-of-the-Match award in Munster's 26–13 win against Stade Français. On 25 March 2016, immediately after returning from international duty with Ireland, Stander scored a try in Munster's 47-0 win against Zebre. In May 2016, Stander won the IRUPA Players' Player of the Year Award, just the third overseas player to do so. He also won the Irish Times-sponsored Supporters' Player of the Year Award, becoming the first overseas winner of the award and the first player to win both the Players' and Supporters' awards in the same season. On 7 May 2016, Stander scored a try and won the Man-of-the-Match award in Munster's 31-15 win against Scarlets, a win which secured Champions Cup rugby for the following season. Stander was named in the 2015–16 Pro12 Dream Team, the second consecutive season he has achieved the accolade. In May 2016, Stander was named the Munster Player of the Year, becoming the first player to win the award in successive seasons. During the season, Stander won a total of four Man-of-the-Match awards, scored seven tries and captained Munster in 18 games.
On 1 October 2016, Stander scored two tries in Munster's 49-5 win against Zebre in a 2016–17 Pro12 fixture. On 29 November 2016, Stander was named the Guinness Rugby Writers of Ireland Player of the Year at an event in Dublin. On 10 December 2016, Stander was Man-of-the-Match in Munster's 38-0 win against Leicester Tigers in Round 3 of the 2016–17 European Rugby Champions Cup. On 7 January 2017, Stander scored a try and won the Man-of-the-Match award in Munster's 7-32 away win against Racing 92. On 21 January 2017, Stander won the Man-of-the-Match award in Munster's 22-10 win against Racing 92, a victory which secured a home quarter-final for Munster in the Champions Cup. On 1 April 2017, Stander scored a try in Munster's 41–16 Champions Cup quarter-final win against Toulouse, though he left the field injured during the second half. On 22 April 2017, Stander made his return from the ankle injury sustained during Munster's quarter-final, starting in the semi-final against defending champions Saracens and scoring a try, though it wasn't enough to stop the English side from winning 26–10 in the Aviva Stadium. In April 2017, Stander was shortlisted for European Player of the Year. On 27 May 2017, Stander started for Munster against Welsh side Scarlets in the 2017 Pro12 Grand Final.
In May 2015, Stander, who qualified for Ireland by residency on the day after the 2015 Rugby World Cup Final, told Pro12's official website, "I will have to decide [between South Africa and Ireland] but I think I have set my sights on Ireland and I think that is what I'm going to pursue."
In January 2016, Stander was called up to Ireland's training squad for the 2016 Six Nations Championship. On 20 January 2016, Stander was named in Ireland's 35-man squad for the 2016 Six Nations. On 7 February 2016, Stander made his debut for Ireland, starting against Wales in their opening match of the Six Nations and earning the Man-of-the-Match award in 16–16 draw. On 13 February 2016, Stander started against France in Ireland's second game of the Six Nations. On 12 March 2016, Stander scored his first try for Ireland in their 58–15 win against Italy.
On 25 May 2016, Stander was named in the 32-man Ireland squad to tour his native South Africa in a 3-test series. On 11 June 2016, Stander started in the first test against South Africa. He was sent off during the first half for a late hit on Patrick Lambie, the first red card of his career. In the subsequent disciplinary hearing, Stander was banned for one week. On 26 October 2016, Stander was named in Ireland's squad for the 2016 end-of-year rugby union internationals. On 5 November 2016, Stander started in Ireland's test against New Zealand at Soldier Field, Chicago, scoring a try in a 40-29 win that was Ireland's first ever against the All Blacks.
On 23 January 2017, Stander was named in the Ireland squad for the opening two rounds of the 2017 Six Nations Championship. On 11 February 2017, Stander scored a hat-trick of tries in Ireland's 10-63 win against Italy in the Stadio Olimpico, Rome, earning the Man-of-the-Match award. This was the first hat-trick scored by an Irish back-row since Brian Robinson's against Zimbabwe at the 1991 Rugby World Cup. It was also the first hat-trick scored by an Ireland player in the Six Nations since Brian O'Driscoll's against Scotland in the 2002 tournament. Furthermore, it was the first hat-trick scored by a forward in Six Nations Championship history and the first by a forward since Frenchman Michel Crauste's in the 1962 Five Nations Championship. Stander's teammate, Craig Gilroy, also scored a hat-trick in the match, making Ireland the first team since England in 1914 to have two hat-trick scorers in a Five or Six Nations game. On 18 March 2017, Stander made a late switch to Number 8 for Ireland when Jamie Heaslip pulled out of the game against England during the warm-up. Ireland went on to win the game in the Aviva Stadium 13–9 and, in doing so, denied England consecutive Grand Slams in the Six Nations. Following his performances in the tournament, Stander was nominated for the 2017 RBS 6 Nations Player of the Championship award, alongside teammate Conor Murray.
In April 2017, Stander was selected in Warren Gatland's 41-man squad for the 2017 British and Irish Lions tour to New Zealand. On 7 June, Stander made his non-test debut for the Lions when he started at Number 8 against the Blues in Eden Park, scoring the Lions only try in their 22–16 defeat. On 10 June, Stander made his second appearance of the tour when he replaced Ireland teammate Seán O'Brien in the match against Crusaders in AMI Stadium. On 13 June, Stander made his third appearance of the tour, starting at Number 8 against the Highlanders in Forsyth Barr Stadium. On 20 June, Stander started for the Lions in their 6–34 win against the Chiefs in Waikato Stadium. On 27 June, in the final mid-week fixture, Stander started against the then-defending Super Rugby champions Hurricanes in Westpac Stadium. Having been an unused replacement during the second test a week earlier, Stander made his test debut for the Lions on 8 July when he was a half-time substitute for his injured Ireland teammate Seán O'Brien during the third test against New Zealand in Eden Park. The 15–15 draw meant the series itself was a draw.
Stander is married to Jean-Marié Neethling, the sister of South African olympic gold medalist Ryk Neethling. His brother, Janneman Stander, is a rugby union player in South Africa for the SWD Eagles. In May 2017, the Mayor of Limerick, Kieran O'Hanlon, made Stander the city's inaugural honorary international ambassador.
International analysis by opposition
Correct as of 8 July 2017 * indicates inclusion of caps for British and Irish Lions