South African rugby was rocked on Wednesday by the news that one of its brightest prospects – Bulls flanker CJ Stander – had turned down an offer to stay inSouth Africaand chose to take up a contract with Irish superclubMunster.
While local players moving overseas is nothing new, Stander’s decision came out of the blue for many and could well see him turn out for Ireland in three years’ time.
The loose forward was identified by Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer as part of a group of players who have been training along with the Bok squad – in essence to gain experience and players who Meyer believes will become Boks within the next year or so. That group also includes the likes of Stormers Frans Malherbe and Siya Kolisi.
Stander has shown that despite his young age – he still is only 21 – he is one of the brightest prospects for the future, having captained SA Schools for two years in a row and also the SA under-20 side. This season he has commanded a regular place in the Bulls’ loose-trio and has been one of their standout performers in the Vodacom Super Rugby competition.
However, it is understood that the offer fromMunsterwas financially appealing, so much so that Stander decided his future was inIrelandfor the next few years.
Munster have looked to recruit from overseas to fill player voids and have also received financial backing from the Irish Rugby Union for their venture, hinting that whoever is recruited will be lured into the Emerald Green in the next few years.
This may be a premature statement, but there are also warning signs if young talented players like Stander choose to go overseas rather than vie for a Springbok starting spot.
However, it may be that the Bulls’ preference for their own loose trio of Pierre Spies, Dewald Potgieter and Deon Stegmann, coupled with the arrival of Jacques Potgieter and the up-and-coming former SA under-20 captain Arno Botha, may have something to do with the decision.
The Bulls also have current SA under-20 captain Wian Liebenberg and IRB Junior World Cup Player of the Year nominee Shaun Adendorff.
DIFFICULT TO COMPREHEND
Still, the move is a difficult one to comprehend giving Stander’s rising star in the game, and the Bulls insinuated that it was more about the offer he received, something that was denied by his agent.
Stander will remain part of the Vodacom Bulls’ 2012 Vodacom Super Rugby campaign and will be available to play for the Vodacom Blue Bulls in the Absa Currie Cup competition. His contract with the BBC runs out on October 31st, whereafter he will move toIreland.
The Chief Executive Officer of the Blue Bulls Company, Barend van Graan, said that they were unable to match the current offer on the table from the Irish club.
“We identified CJ at schoolboy level already and he was part of our future planning at the Bulls. However we couldn’t match theMunsteroffer – such is the reality of professional sport.”
Vodacom Bulls coach, Frans Ludeke, wished Stander well in his decision;
“Quality players like CJ, who have also shown tremendous leadership abilities, don’t come around very often and so it was not a surprise to hear about his overseas offer. We would have loved to have had him with us well into the future, but it makes financial sense for CJ to accept theMunsteroffer.
“I have no doubt that CJ will continue to give everything he has throughout the remainder of our Vodacom Super Rugby campaign as well as our Absa Currie Cup season.”
But Stander’s agent Gerrie Swart told SuperSport.com that financial considerations were not the primary factor in his decision.
“CJ’s decision was made after a process over a period of months which included talks with the Bulls,Munsterand personal one-on-one discussions with Frans Ludeke and Heyneke Meyer,” Swart told SuperSport.com.
“His decision is well informed and although financial considerations were taken into account it was by no means the primary or decisive factor which ultimately spurred the move. It is for this reason that it was never expected or requested of the Bulls to match theMunsteroffer.”
Either way it seems Ireland have gained and South Africa has lost a fine player, one who could well have challenged for a leadership role at the 2015 World Cup. Only time will tell if he returns toSouth Africaor stays and is lured into an Irish jersey.
Stander has captained the Vodacom Blue Bulls at under-19 and under-21 level as well as South Africa at under-20 level. He made his Vodacom Super Rugby debut in 2012 and has played in all 13 Vodacom Super Rugby matches for the Vodacom Bulls this year.