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27th Jun 2018

One CJ Stander moment that proves it would be foolish to ever write him off

Patrick McCarry

An interesting positional switch but no drop-off in the quality of his out-put.

One of the players left out of conversations, after the First Test, when discussing the breakdown battle was CJ Stander. Michael Hooper, David Pocock and Caleb Timu were all praised, and rightfully so, while both Peter O’Mahony and Dan Leavy took flak from some quarters.

CJ Stander flew under the radar, and that so rarely happens. Stander is not the type of player that flies under radars.

The stats tell a different story – leading tackler [16] and carrier [77 metres off 13 runs] – but Stander was overshadowed by Pocock and Hooper. That game was won in the air, through Israel Folau and Dane Haylett Petty, and at the breakdown. Ireland changed up their tactics for Melbourne and Sydney and Stander exerted a bigger influence on events.

James Downey discussed the impact Stander had on the Test Series finalé on The Hard Yards [from 14:20 below] and there was one moment that confirmed, to anyone that had any doubts, that the Munster forward remains a force to be reckoned with.

“CJ had a hell of a game,” declared McGeady and he was not finding any opposition from Downey.

“At the end of a tour,” the former Munster centre began, “you have people who talk about your positives and negatives, where you want to go and what worked.

“I was initially a bit disappointed and what he brought in the first couple of Tests. I expected more but maybe you’ve got to say hats off to the Aussies, in that they nullified him. CJ is all about that go-forward. If he doesn’t get that go-forward, he’s out of the game and you can get frustrated. He gets frustrated, and he tries to force it and make it happen.

“But he stood up, he really stood up. His carries were effective, he was getting gain-line, he was making impacts, tackling and getting in there at turnovers. It was kind of the CJ of old, and sometimes you can forget how good he can be.

“Sometimes you have everyone else stepping up. Look, he’s not going to have a great game every week, 100%, but you can still have one or two players being off the mark a little bit and I think CJ stepped up when one or two lads were quiet. You had Peter O’Mahony going off and they needed someone in there. And he did. He put his hand up and I thought he had a great game. I was very impressed.”

Stander’s try, early in the second half, was always going to garner him more attention but, to me, his moment of the game was this bruising bit of defence, and his searing leg-drive, to drive an attempted Australian charge back.

Just after the 50-minute mark, with the hosts desperate to respond after falling 19-7 behind, Sekope Kepu bulled forward. David Pocock and replacement lock Rob Simmons latched on. Stander was not having a bar of it. He took Kepu high and, with Jack Conan pitching in, drove him back and onto the turf.

“Something like that buoys the whole defence,” said Downey. “If someone puts in a big hit and knocks them back, it gives you a little pep in your step.

“If you’re soaking and soaking in tackles, it is extremely hard to defend. I always talk about how teams on their own line defend and fight for inches, but further out the field it is often so easy to make easy yards.

“So when someone makes a hit like that, it gives everyone a lift.”

No.6 or N0.8, if CJ is quiet, he won’t be quiet for long.

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