Something’s gone wrong with my tear ducts. I find myself welling up at the most ridiculous things. It’s fascinating what sets me off.
Yesterday, I cried when I saw CJ Stander cry. And today, I’m still crying when I think of him.
The papers here in Ireland have been full of his decision to retire from the game when his contract ends in June. He’s heading back to South Africa. I heard that when he first arrived in Limerick more than eight years ago to play rugby for Munster, he could barely speak English. I was half expecting him to have a Limerick accent but he has held on to his own.
“It was shocking,” Keith Earls confirmed yesterday. “The two of us couldn’t communicate between his Afrikaans and my Moyross accent, so we had someone in between us chatting. [Irish Times]
I’ve been there. I’ve strong memories of having to have an interpreter when I lived in Longview WA. And there was nothing wrong with my English 🙂
Stander quite simply wants to be back with his wife and daughter. He wants to get back to farming. He’s retiring from rugby at the age of 30, despite the financial implications.
His decision to retire, primarily for family reasons, which Munster captain Peter O’Mahony described as “noble”, does appear to be leaving €1.6 million in potential earnings on the table.
After 51 caps for Ireland, 150 games for Munster (so far) he also has a number of firsts under his belt. First overseas player to get Munster Player of the Year (2014/2015). He won it again in 2016/2017 and for a record third time in 2019/2020. He was the third overseas player to get the Rugby Players Ireland players’ player of the year (2015/2016), the first to get the Irish Times-sponsored supporters’ player of the year award (2015/2016) and the first to win both. And that same year he won the Rugby Writers Ireland player of the year, too.
The picture I have in my head of Stander squeezing away the tears after the win against England is competing for space with the picture I have in my head of Keith Wood waving as he left the pitch after we lost so badly to France in the World Cup quarter-final back in 2003. Lovely lads, the both of them.
"I am forever grateful. Dreams do come true."
CJ Stander speaking to @sineadkissane after his final game in an Ireland jersey.
— Virgin Media Sport (@VMSportIE) March 20, 2021
Like so many others, I’m grateful for the energy he’s given to Irish rugby and the pride he’s taken in wearing the jerseys. I’m even more grateful though, for the example he’s setting when it comes to priorities and the gratitude he’s shown for his dream coming true. What an inspiration.
Go n’éiri an bóthar leat, CJ. Le mile buíochas.