CJ Stander spoke to EWN Sport from Dublin.
Ireland flanker CJ Stander was told he was too small to cut it as a loose-forward at test level.
The former SA Schools captain received the ill-conceived advice from a coach in South Africa, while he was still plying his trade in the country of his birth.
“It’s tough to mention names and I don’t want to single people out, but I was told by someone coaching at a high level that I was too small and that I should move to hooker as that’s the only position where I would play international rugby” Stander told EWN Sport from Dublin.
“I spoke to my family and at that stage I was 22 and said it was difficult for me to think that way, to play in the position for three years just to see if it works.”
He says playing hooker is tough.
“You have to throw in well. You have to be able to scrum week-in, week-out. I sat down with a lot of people and I just said to myself I’m not going to do this. I made the decision easily, and decided to pack up my stuff and leave. Munster didn’t think I was too small and signed me, and I just took the chance.”
Stander, who was playing Super Rugby for the Bulls at the time, denied that his decision was based on money.
“The currency makes a big difference, but the contract at that stage wasn’t that big. Living over here is more expensive, so it was literally down to the fact that my career was going to stop unless I moved as people didn’t back me because of my size and capabilities. The opportunity came to move and I grabbed it with both hands.”
And grab it Stander did, making a sensational test debut for Ireland last weekend in a 16-all draw against Wales in Dublin.
The 26-year-old was named man of the match for his performance, carrying the ball a game-high 23 times, while putting in eleven tackles.
The former Oakdale High School pupil was visibly emotional during the singing of the two Ireland anthems Amhrán na bhFiann and Ireland’s Call ahead of the clash, but admitted that he had done his homework.
“The Irish one (Amhrán na bhFiann) I struggled with because I don’t know the language, but one of my teammates taught me the words, while my wife went onto Google and found this Australian guy who moved to Ireland and made an Australian version of the song. I just learnt that off by heart. As for Ireland’s Call, when I was still at Oakdale we had Oakdale’s Call, which had the exact same words except for the fact that we said ‘Oakdale’ instead of ‘Ireland’, so it was an easy transition.”