CJ Stander believes being a “foreigner” in the Ireland team made it easier for people to criticise him, although he acknowledged that others get an even harder time.
The South African-born back rower played his last game for Ireland against England last month and will hang up his boots at the end of the season with Munster in order to spend more time with his family.
Stander was speaking on We Become Heroes, an RTÉ Sport podcast and touched on the increasing amount of criticism and abuse that players are now being subjected to online.
‘It’s easy to make fun of the foreigner, or the guy who is not like ‘us’. There’s a circle and I’m outside’ – @cjstander about dealing with claims he is an outsider with @Irishrugby and @munsterrugby – full interview available Tuesday on all podcast platforms #WeBecomeHeroes pic.twitter.com/xLSJ3eZ16g
— RTÉ Sport (@RTEsport) April 12, 2021
“It’s difficult, a lot of people say I’ve seen professional players say they don’t read the stuff and that it doesn’t come to them,” Stander said.
“It does flow to you, even if it is in a conversation with a friend or someone in town, someone who is in your circle.
“It is difficult because I think there is no face to it, there is no one talking to you about it or even just articles being written about players in general.
“If it is the truth then we all can handle the truth, especially at this level, we have to be comfortable with the honest truth.
“Sometimes people just come out with some of the weirdest stuff, that hurts, it just hurts because for a fact, not even talking about myself, I know teams, players coaches, no one goes out there to lose, no one goes out there to play badly.”
‘All I can do is go out and play well’
While Stander has been an extremely consistent performer for Munster and Ireland throughout his career he has also come in for criticism at times.
The 31-year-old qualified for Ireland under residency rules in late 2015, before going on to make his debut in the 2016 Six Nations Championship.
Stander reckons his South African roots opened him up to more scrutiny but acknowledged that there was nothing he could do about it, other than playing at his best.
“I wouldn’t say I got a harder time, there are lots of players out there who get even more slack than me,” Stander commented.
“It made it easier for people to throw more slack my way because I have a funny accent, or I talk funny, or I play a funny game.
“It just makes it easier for them to make fun of the foreigner, make fun of the guy who is not like us. This is the circle, I’m outside, everyone is laughing and I’m just standing there taking it and you have to.
“I knew that there is nothing I can say, I can’t call these people. All I can do is go out on Saturday, play well and just say I showed you, thanks for coming.”