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CJ Stander was told before he left South Africa that if he wanted loyalty he should go out and buy a dog but he said the sense of camaraderie he has witnessed with Munster and Ireland since moving here ensured he wasn’t going to leave during recent contract negotiations.
The 27-year old, who penned a new three-year deal before Christmas, confirmed on Wednesday that offers had been put on the table but he stressed he or his representatives did not engage with any of these clubs because he saw his future with Munster and Ireland.
And Stander said that the twin motive of winning silverware with Munster and playing the World Cup were the primary reasons for staying.
“I just want to clarify that there was no intention to leave ever. A lot of people deal with their contract negotiations differently. I have only got two guys who look after them. We normally talk in the beginning and say this is what we think is an acceptable contract. I leave them off and I said to them ‘cheers’, I didn’t want to see them again until they put paper in front of me.
“That was the case again. I sat down with everyone and they were quite happy to keep me here in the first place. That was the biggest thing, to stay and keep me here. We wanted to do it as quickly as we can. I sat down with David Nucifora and we had a good chat before we even started negotiations. It was fairly quiet and easy.”
He said that once figures entered the media there was considerable speculation about whether or not he should go but for him the decision was a lot more straightforward.
“I just felt that I grew up with loyalty and I remember someone told me a long time ago just before I left South Africa that if you want loyalty in rugby you have to go and buy yourself a dog. But then I came to Munster and Ireland then. For me that was one of the biggest things, the loyalty we have here as a club and the Irish set-up and the squad. I just felt that I wanted to repay that loyalty that I had in me beforehand, what they meant to me in the last few years since I got here. And it was quite an easy decision.”
He has chalked up 106 appearances for Munster and ran in 32 tries – he has also scored seven in 18 Irish internationals – and Stander is keen to push for both province and country.
“For me the biggest thing was if I get the opportunity I would really, really love to play in a World Cup. That has been a boyhood dream since I started playing rugby, for me that was always one of the biggest things.
“There are a lot of people that have different goals and stuff they want to do in life. For me I enjoy my rugby but I want to win something with Munster. I am eager and want to put myself out there with this squad that we can win something and leave something behind here one day.”
Stander said that he is driven in those twin desires for Munster and Ireland by wanting to make up for what he is missing in his homeland in South Africa.
“A lot of sacrifices, left the family behind, the family is getting older, my dad is getting older and farming on his own. My mom, all of them, I miss small things. I miss funerals, I miss people growing up. I miss people growing up, my cousins and nephews, whatever. I miss my friends getting married.
“But at the end of the day I made the decision at the age of 22 to come over here and Munster and Ireland have been very loyal to me to put a lot of work and money into me to get me to where I am now. For me to one day win something with Munster and go to a World Cup, that’s the greatest way for me to repay to them.
“And I really think we have the squad with Munster to win something. And I think with the Irish set-up, with the coaches and players and the quality we have in Ireland, going to a World Cup something can happen.”
Of more immediate concern for Stander will be to try stop Munster’s losing sequence in the festive derbies when they take on a Connacht side brimming with confidence.
Motivation is not hard to find for Stander as he approaches this game as he recalls Connacht’s first win at Thomond Park in the professional era two years ago.
“I was the first captain to lose against them in Thomond Park in 29 years so that’s another record for you. Hopefully if I get selected that doesn’t happen again. But that’s something that stuck with me. It was two years ago.
“It was tough but they played well again. I remember Bundee Aki scored an unbelievable try in the corner. They were very good. They have been on their form ever since and that’s the year they won it. They are a good team, they play very well and score unbelievable tries. Their defence is up there with the very best so it’s going to be a good game.”