‘I thought I’d have to sleep in the street’ – CJ Stander recalls first night out in Cork

‘There’s no way you play for Munster.’

While CJ Stander is now a proud Ireland international, having won 48 caps for his adopted country, the South African-born back-rower couldn’t speak English when he first arrived in the country.

Stander joined Munster from the Bulls in 2012 and had little experience with the English language, having primarily spoken Afrikaans during his time in South Africa.

The 2017 British and Irish Lion revealed on RugbyLad‘s Up and Under podcast that his lack of English ended up causing him a bit of trouble on a team night out with Munster.

CJ Stander on his first night out after joining Munster.

“I had been here for five days, staying in the Castletroy Park Hotel in Limerick, and Barry O’Mahony picked me up and we went down to Cork. I think I had like €60, that was all I had with me.

“We had a great night, as we always do, and it was the 12 pubs of Christmas. At pub seven, we went to one place and the boys were all upstairs. I went down to get food, got outside, but then the guy on the door didn’t want to let me back in.

“I didn’t have anyone’s number so I knew I was in trouble. I didn’t know where to go, if I took a taxi to Limerick, I’m not going to make it. I was thinking I would have to sleep in the street for the night.

“The guy on the door said, ‘There’s no way you play for Munster, you can’t speak English, I’m not letting you up there.’ I hadn’t played a game, so it was fair,” Stander said.

CJ Stander: My Munster teammates thought they had lost me.

With barely any English, a lack of funds and very little knowledge of Cork, Stander wasn’t left with very many options.

However, Stander’s broken English was enough to get him close to the house of former Munster teammate Barry O’Mahony, thanks to the Irish Guide Dogs for the Blind centre in Cork.

“The only thing I remembered was that the guys in Cork lived close to the Guide Dogs place, where they trained the dogs in Cork. I got into a taxi and told the guy I wanted to go to the ‘Blind Dogs’.

“He eventually dropped me around two kilometres from the house and I saw Barry O’Mahony’s car, got into the house, and got home safe.

“That was the funny side of it. The boys thought they had lost me and I thought I had lost myself.”

Stander’s English has improved immeasurably since first coming to Ireland, while his performances for both province and country have also been something of a positive since his arrival.

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(Originally published on February 19, 2021).

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