"Jean was in a dark spot... he was struggling" - CJ Stander on 'Munster monsters' Kleyn and Snyman
"I don't want to play against that guy."
CJ Stander has firmly declared "I'm an Irishman" ahead of this weekend's game between his old team and South Africa, the country of his birth. He can understand, though, why Jean Kleyn has switched an Irish jersey for one of the Springboks.
A recent South African rugby podcast say hosts Mark Keohane and Zelim Nel refer to Jean Kleyn and R.G Snyman as 'Munster monsters' and declared the 'best locks in Irish rugby'. This Saturday, at Stade de France, both giant forwards will be on the South Africa bench and will both get minutes against Ireland.
Stander, who trained and played with both men at Munster, has told his old Ireland teammates what to expect.
CJ Stander on Jean Kleyn and RG Snyman
Jean Kleyn arrived at Munster in 2016 as a project player, with the intention being that he would play his way into Ireland contention after he satisfied World Rugby's eligibility rules for non natives [that has since changed from three- to five years residency].
In 2019, he made the Ireland squad after Joe Schmidt picked him as an extra tighthead lock option. He fell out of favour after that tournament and Andy Farrell, who took over from Schmidt, never seemed keen on using him. Kleyn was approached by South Africa, earlier this year, and as he had not been selected by Ireland for three years, was allowed to represent the country of his birth.
Stander, who was speaking with us after being recently named international ambassador for the British and Irish Trading Alliance (BITA), gave us his take on Jean Kleyn and RG Snyman - a player who twice battled back from bad knee injuries, at Munster, to help them win the URC title.
"They both have been through so much. Both were world-class but obviously had to prove themselves again when they arrived at Munster. What has made them the lads they are, and players they are, is that they were both probably in some dark places over the last three or four years. RG had those injuries and had to work very hard to get back.
"Jean was probably in a dark spot, too. If you knew him well, you knew he was struggling. He was playing very well, I think, but he found himself where there was a lot of stock in his position and, he just couldn't break through.
"He's a smart guy, you know. I'm talking intellectually. He's quite a smart guy and he knows what he wants to talk about. He asked tough questions. He had a lot of conversations with players and coaches, and the senior coaching staff [with Ireland], and he probably realised that was probably the end of it.
"Without this [World Rugby] rule, he was probably thinking of going somewhere else, near the end of his career, and playing. I'm not saying that he wanted to leave Munster, bit I think he probably thought that his door was closed, you know. He's got that opportunity, though, and he's playing again. He's one of the best locks in that Springboks group and he is playing very well.
"It's the same with RG. When you go to such a dark place, where your back is against the wall and there's nowhere else to go, all you can sometimes do is start climbing out of it and building slowly."
Stander on "dangerous" Bok locks
"These guys are enjoying what they're doing at the moment. You could see it when they are playing together or waiting for each other to come off the bench," Stander added.
"I've always said this, and I said it when RG arrived at Munster, that I don't want to play against that guy. He was the biggest human being. He looks dangerous. He is dangerous and he's so big.
"Then he plays with Jean and they are probably, if you put it on paper, the most physical guys you'll ever meet in your life. I'm not even talking about rugby - just when you meet them. They have a presence."
They certainly do, but they are just the tip of the iceberg for Stander's old Ireland team.
First off, they need to get through Franco Mostert and Eben Etzebeth. Then, on come the Munster monsters.
HOUSE OF RUGBY WITH DARREN CAVE & CJ STANDER
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