If CJ Stander needs to harness painful European Cup memories to provide motivation for Saturday’s clash with Saracens, then he has plenty of options to choose from.
In Stander’s second season with the southern province, he started in their semi-final defeat to Toulon in 2014 as Jonny Wilkinson kicked 21 points en route to a 24-16 victory.
Three years later, Munster were back among the elite in Europe as an emotionally charged season led them to a clash with this weekend’s opponents Saracens but they failed to fire a shot as they were overwhelmed by a powerful performance from the English side on the day.
12 months on and with Johann van Graan now at the helm, Munster faced into another semi-final and again, the southern province failed to turn up as they were blitzed by a scintillating Racing 92 side in the opening 40 minutes.
Now Stander faces into another semi-final and this time, he is determined that his team make the best use of their opportunities.
“I think we’ve got a group that’s been involved in three in the last few years,” Stander told the media at Friday’s captain’s run. “There’s a good leadership group, a good senior group that’s leading the charge, so we’ve given ourselves an opportunity and we’re all looking forward to it, just to go out and play our game.
“We need to use our opportunities and enjoy this competition.”
Stander reveals that Munster have a plan in place to topple Saracens but of course, he doesn’t want to “spoil” the surprise as he tells the media with a grin. However, his demeanour becomes much more serious as he reflects on last season’s loss to Racing 92.
“They’re [Saracens] a class outfit. They know what they’re doing, they’ve been on top of their game for the last few years. I’m not going to spoil it by telling you what we’re going to do but we’re looking forward to what we can do.
“We’ll concentrate on what we can do out there and take this opportunity. Last year, we disappointed ourselves and it’s great to get another chance.”