CJ Stander can't get over the passion of Waterford GAA fans 4 years ago

CJ Stander can't get over the passion of Waterford GAA fans

He has been here long enough to get to grips with GAA but the unbridled passion that fans have for the game still blows him away.

CJ Stander is looking refreshed and raring to go after his month away from the game.

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The Munster and Ireland back-row got back to South Africa after his involvement with the Lions in New Zealand. There was a stopover in Mauritius too but, unlike Jack Conan, he did not allow himself to enjoy his time off too much.

"Munster gave me an extra week so it was good to see the family again," Stander tells us.

"I went away to Mauritius and it was good to get a good break and refresh the head and come back excited about the season ahead. I'm looking forward to that as there's a lot of excitement in South Africa and I can see my family twice a year for free."

He is targeting the October 7 league clash with Leinster at the Aviva Stadium and he has five weeks to get up to speed for it. The first week of his personalised pre-season will be tough but not too tough, thanks to his fitness-mad wife, Jean-Marie. Stander says:

"We worked on our own over the summer but now it's just to get back working with the team and muscle movement. Making sure I know all the moves and get physically ready.

"I did that mistake when I was 20, I enjoyed the four weeks over and I got back and was struggling. The first two weeks I usually go to the farm and work hard then. After that I take off a week completely, refresh the head and start ticking over again. In fairness to my wife she's a fitness fanatic so she gets me out of bed in the morning to do something. I have to be on the farm at 7am."

A couple of memories that stands out for Stander over his summer break include bumping into a GAA-mad couple and having a proud Tipperary man on the family farm. He comments:

"Donnacha Ryan's father was over on the farm for a couple of weeks and he brought a Tipp jersey with him so I was in that for a lot of the summer. Someone took a good picture of me trying to get it on, to see if it fits me."

"In fairness," he adds, "I met a couple in Mauritius, when I was on holiday, and they were very excited. They cut their honeymoon short to come back for this All-Ireland final. Hopefully they get [a result]."

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Another mad Déise fan is Munster and Ireland teammate Jack O'Donoghue.

"He's excited and he says he has been to all of their games but I don't believe him!" Stander joked.

O'Donoghue may yet recruit Stander to Waterford's cause to claim their first Liam MacCarthy Cup since 1959. Just as long as he doesn't wear that Tipp jersey.