At an award ceremony held at the Guinness Storehouse in Dublin on Tuesday night, Munster and Ireland back row CJ Stander was named The Guinness Rugby Writers of Ireland Player of the Year for 2016.
Stander, who joined Munster in 2012 after a stint with Super Rugby side the Blue Bulls, captained the province throughout the pool stage of the 2015-2016 European Champions Cup. Though Munster failed to progress to the knockout stages of the competition, Stander was outstanding, scoring tries and winning man-of-the-match awards against both Treviso and Stade Francais.
The South-African born number 8 also made his debut for Ireland in 2016. He went on to win ten caps, scoring three tries, one of which came in Ireland’s famous victory over the All Blacks in Chicago earlier this month.
“It’s an honour to be voted as the Guinness Rugby Writers Player of the Year,” said Stander, upon receiving the award. “It’s good to get [the recognition]. I think when you’re a younger boy you go through a stage where you want to get a lot of pats on the back but when you get older and you get into a team you just want to perform for all the boys and for the team to help them win. That’s really my biggest drive.”
“It’s been a great year, an unbelievable last three years and I’ve worked hard to get to the place where I am now. The biggest thing for me now is to drive on from there and not settle or be part of the furniture. You always have to push on and create something new.
“So that’s a big drive for me not to think I’ve done enough. I just want to keep on performing for the team, that’s important for me, and lead a few teams.”
It wasn’t the first time this year that Stander’s contributions to both Munster and Ireland have been recognised, as he was also named Irish Rugby Union Players Association Players’ Player of the Year, the Supporters’ Player of the Year and the Munster Player of the Year earlier in 2016.
Stander wasn’t the only one to receive an award at the Guinness gala, as Sene Naoupu was named Women’s Player of the Year, Connacht won Team of the Year, and Clontarf RFC won Club of the Year, while Philip Orr and Tony Ward were inducted into the Hall of Fame.