"You never a win a game easy, it's always a battle": CJ Stander embodies Munster's fighting spirit
Stander scored one of Munster's four tries during their bonus point win over Racing 92 in Paris last weekend16:00 Tuesday 10 January 2017, 16:00 10 Jan 2017
CJ Stander's trophy case must slowly creak and groan under the weight of all those Man of the Match awards.
It's old news to point out now his importance to Munster Rugby, as it is at this point unnecessary to highlight the fact that with every performance in a red (and green for that matter) shirt Stander is continuing to improve.
Last weekend, Munster made light work of a Racing 92 side already out of the running to progress to the next round of the Champions Cup. Their performance was clinical, relentless and above all industrious.
"You never go to France and win a game easy, it's always a battle," Stander points out. "It just shows that we work hard and the confidence we get out of those games, but also not to lose the run of ourselves.
"We don't start to think that we're above in the game. We're just a bunch of lads who work hard for each other."
Stander's attitude toward the media, his team-mates and supporters has endeared him to the public and made him an almost universally liked member of the squad.
Munster now sit top of their group on 16 points, three clear of their nearest rivals Glasgow Warriors. They visit Scotland this weekend in what will prove to be a battle for top spot and a guarantee of favourable seeding for the next round.
"They're physical up front, their back line is unbelievable. They play the ball quickly and the forwards make sure that the set pieces are quite good.
"The maul is very good, their scrum is very good and I think it's going to be a massive weekend in Europe for both sides because it could decide on where you end up in the group.
"There's lots on the line for players and coaches. These are the ones you look forward to."
Munster led 25-0 on Saturday evening in Paris and their direct style of play paid dividends as they got in behind the Top 14 side's defence time and again.
"Everyone knows their stuff in the game, they know their detail in the game. You just go out there and enjoy yourself. Someone has to get it. The team makes it so easy to just enjoy yourself and play as well as you can every weekend.
"We work very hard on our workrate to be very fit as a team. We work hard for each other."
CJ Stander bursts through the tackle of two Racing 92 players to cross the whitewash for Munster in Paris. Image: ©INPHO/James Crombie
The South African born back-row was in fine form during the game in France and made the most of a frail Racing defensive line to run in Munster's second try of the game.
"I was just trying to get in the way of the kicker so we get a better line-out opportunity. Fair play to Jaco [Taute] who push me over the line [for the try] and for Pete [O'Mahony] who was celebrating before I even went over. They back me all the way.
"The last couple of years we were losing three or four games in-a-row, six games in-a-row. Winning is a habit, when you get victories you need to celebrate them. You don't know when it's going to dry up."
Stander and company now look ahead to their Warriors clash this Saturday evening and will have to adjust to an artificial pitch. Stander confirmed the team would be adjusting to conditions by training on someone of the artificial pitches at the University of Limerick.
He added: "We take [the competition] game to game. Different teams bring different opportunities. We'll have to tweak a bit here and there, especially with Glasgow who are a physical team. We have to make sure we look after the ball, because if you give it to them they're going to keep it for three minutes. They're going to score tries and it's going to be a long night."
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