It may only be the first week of October but every win is vital in the PRO14 as teams look to build up points to ensure they are still competing at the latter end of the season. Having endured much heartbreak with Munster in this competition, CJ Stander is determined to ensure that the club will continue to contest for medals.
All eyes will be on Joey Carbery this weekend as he returns to face his former club, Leinster in the Aviva Stadium. Munster go into the game on the back of subjecting a weakened Ulster to their biggest ever defeat in the history of the club with Carbery picking up the man-of-the-match award in the 64-7 win.
The outhalf scored his first try in Thomond Park in an overall impressive display that saw him score 18 points. Stander believes that the 22-year-old won’t be phased by the occasion and will play with the same “calmness” that he displayed since joining the southern province.
“He came in straight away and fitted into the mould like he’s been here for years. Playing with him in the Irish setup and training with him, as a player, I think he’s a guy that brings a lot of calmness and relaxation into the team and he runs everything with a cool head and that’s something we need. You can see it on the pitch, you can see it on his face that he enjoys himself.”
Munster have a poor record against the current European and PRO14 champions of late, having won only one of the last seven clashes between the sides. They came close in the RDS Arena in the semi-final of the competition last season but the Aviva Stadium will provide a different challenge.
Stander insists that the fixture can allow the team to become more consistent after a mixed start to the season.
“It’s probably the toughest test we’re going to get. They’re the best team in Europe and they proved that last year. We haven’t been successful up there for a long time, I think since 2014 so going up there, we need to be consistent, consistent in the way we play and the way we train. We need to make sure we get out of this game on/game off, hopefully, we can push on and get consistent.”
“We have to look at this weekend, it’s the only thing that’s in front of us but we want to get consistent, we want to build on last week. We know we have big games coming up but there’s no better test than this weekend to make sure we’re ready for those games.”
One of the keener spectators in Thomond Park last Saturday was Ireland head coach, Joe Schmidt who has previously stated the importance of interprovincial and European clashes to picking his squad. With all attention switching to Dublin this weekend, the fixture is the ideal chance to impress the New Zealander ahead of a vital international year.
“There’s always competition and there’s no better way to test yourself to see where you stand. In these weeks, I know that they look at it and the important thing is to perform for Munster and make sure you put your hand up for the Munster team and then get selected after that. There’s a few big games coming up now and it’s a great opportunity for everyone to take their chance.”
While Stander, along with many others, have experienced much joy and success at an international level, he has yet to win a medal with Munster. There last competition win came seven years ago in the Magners League. The 28-year-old admits that it is a cause for frustration.
“There is a bit of frustration. We’ve spoken a lot about it. We felt we had chances in the past to get medals and to get competitions but it’s a thing we’re trying to work on at the start of the season to make sure we get the opportunities to get those medals. It’s important to start the season well, to end it off well and to get medals. The ultimate goal is to win something for Munster.”