Belfast Telegraph

Stander relishing more derby blood and thunder

Leinster v Munster, Guinness PRO14 Championship - Semi-Final, RDS Arena, Saturday, 2.30pm

Raring to go: Munster’s battle tested flanker CJ Stander
Raring to go: Munster’s battle tested flanker CJ Stander
David Kelly

By David Kelly

The last time we met Jannie Stander, his son was nonchalantly regaling us with a tale of how he had run over the six-year-old while driving his tractor.

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Now we get the tale of him tangling with a touch judge and ruling the roost in the stands.

It's derby day tomorrow in the RDS Arena and, for those weary of a seemingly interminable season, there still exists a passionately committed constituency for whom the afternoon remains of core relevance.

And there may be blood. Boiling. Stirring. Spilling.

Derbies tend to pour the claret, at times. No small beer here.

"You don't want to push the boat too far but yeah, it's a semi-final, there is a lot on the line," says CJ Stander.

"There is always a lot of spice in these games, it happens and that's what makes it interesting.

"They're the games you enjoy, the physical ones. It's good to get out and test the jersey collars and see how far they stretch!

"We're all mates off the field in the Irish pitch but when we step on to the field it is Munster v Leinster."

Stander wistfully recalls schooldays and another derby. Oakdale against Outeniqua.

"A few of the dads roughed each other in the stand but I don't want to talk about that too much because my dad was in charge of that!

"I remember one game, a winger stepped so far out and he was almost in the stand but the touch judge didn't give it.

"My dad walked on and almost ripped the touch judge off by the collar to take him back to the farm. My mum stopped him before he could."

And then the Currie Cup with the Bulls. When the boy became a man.

"I wouldn't say I was a man before. But in that game there were men going at each other. And this game is even bigger than that."

His current coach, Johann van Graan, smiles at the memory.

"I remember exactly what he was talking about, I respected those players so much. CJ was a new kid on the block.

"There was a game when the Bulls played the Western Province at Loftus.

"Two of the loosies from the Stormers that day were Francois Louw and Duane Vermeulen, they just welcomed CJ to Loftus and Currie Cup rugby. He had blood all over his face."

"That was the first day I learned about respect," says Stander. "They broke my nose and then pulled me off the ground. They shook my hands while they ran off."

"That's the beauty of sport," says Van Graan. It is rivalries and a healthy respect afterwards.

Let the games begin and the passions, if not the blood, flow.

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