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Schmidt praise has me fired up and ready to kick on after Springboks mauling, says Stander

By Ruaidhri O'Connor

CJ Stander doesn't need any extra motivation when he lines out against the country of his birth who reckoned he was too small for international rugby, but when Joe Schmidt calls him aside and encourages him to step up his game, a response was inevitable.

Stander was excellent in Saturday's record win over the Springboks and afterwards Schmidt singled out the 27-year-old for particular praise.

"I think it was a bit of a return to form for CJ, he's been a bit quiet so far this season but he really ramped up his energy today," the Kiwi said.

Stander won't be used to hearing his form be described as "quiet" but he agreed with Schmidt's assessment.

"At the beginning of the year I felt I was trying maybe to concentrate on stuff that wasn't in my control," Stander explains.

"Joe spoke to me before the game and gave a good analogy; he said I was like an aeroplane on the runway, I'm there but I'm not going up.

"So look, I won't say I'm flying yet, I'm probably on the take-off."

For Stander, any victory over his coun­try of birth is worth relishing, especially given the stick that he took when he was back home on the summer tour last year when he was sent off in the second Test.

"I feel I didn't get the opportunity in South Africa a year ago because we didn't win there and the one time we won I went off the pitch early.

"There were none of those feelings so it's been a good week, a good Saturday evening, I really enjoyed it. I felt I had a slow start to the season so I wanted to get back in and perform well, so that was my motivation, nothing else outside of that."

The body language of the South African players last weekend told you everything you needed to know about how much of a rabble they currently are.

The sooner Rassie Erasmus gets his hands on those massively under-per­forming players the better for their sake, and Stander admits that he did notice their heads dropping.

"Yeah, some phases here and there. I think for them when they play at home the crowd gets behind them and they get an extra boost but here, not really. We were just firing in the right positions and the right places.

"It's tough when you don't get your plan A ready and set to go. Then if you lose a few lineouts or a few scrums it's difficult to get into your game.

"It's happened to us a few times. I think they're very close to clicking, they'll just go up from here. We went out there and made sure that, firstly, we knew our job, and secondly that we went out there and played for each other."

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