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It’s going to be a tough tour of South Africa for Wales - CJ Stander

CJ Stander of Ireland during his playing days at Newlands Stadium, Cape Town on 11 June 2016. Picture: Ryan Wilkisky/BackpagePix

CJ Stander of Ireland during his playing days at Newlands Stadium, Cape Town on 11 June 2016. Picture: Ryan Wilkisky/BackpagePix

Published May 18, 2022


Johannesburg - Having one foot in South Africa and another in the British Isles, CJ Stander might not be a ‘Soutie’ in the traditional sense, but he is nevertheless well-placed to comment on the game of rugby through the lens of both words.

Now back living in the country after his retirement, the former Irish international and Munster stalwart, revealed his opinions on the upcoming Wales tour of South Africa, and which SA side is best-placed to make a run into the final of the United Rugby Championship (URC) in the coming weeks.

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The Springboks are set to face Wales in a three Test match series, the first of which is on July 2 at Loftus Versveld. Things have not been going swimmingly for the Welsh internationally in recent months, as they have struggled under the mentorship of head coach Wayne Pivac.

They only managed to win one game during the recent Six Nations, beating Scotland and last year, during the End-of-Year Internationals, they defeated Fiji and Australia – the latter a particularly desperate encounter. That tour also included a 22-18 loss to the Boks at Millennium Stadium before those encounters.

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Moreover, the Welsh franchises in the URC – Ospreys, Scarlets, Cardiff and Dragons – are in the doldrums and populate the lower third of the tournament's standings; and there will be no representation from that region in the competition’s play-off this season.

Nonetheless, Stander warned on Wednesday in a URC-sanctioned roundtable discussion, that underestimating Wales this year, is done so at one’s own peril.

Said Stander of the July Internationals: “I think it is going to be a tough tour.

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“They (Wales) have a lot of injuries and the squad has been rotated a lot. It is going to be a tough one but one thing I learnt against Wales – especially in the Six Nations – when they are injured, down and wounded, then that’s when they get up.

“I think the first Test will probably be a win for the Springboks and that is where things will be redrawn, the guys will regroup and they will build from there. I don’t think you can write off Wales, even with their injuries.

“They still have unbelievable players; the coaching staff will keep things in line.”

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Wales announced their 33-man squad – captained by Dan Biggar – on Wednesday, and Stander further stated that they will be helpful opposition as the reigning world champion Boks’ begin their build-up in earnest to defend their title in France next year.

“It’s a good time to prep now,” said Stander, “and get a good few games under their belts, especially with the three Test matches coming up. They can then get that cohesiveness together again so that they can start prepping for the World Cup.”

Before that, however, there is the not-so-trivial matter of completing the URC.

With three SA sides – the Bulls, Sharks and Stormers - competing for final standing in the play-offs this weekend, Stander revealed his belief that it could possibly be the men from Pretoria who could go all the way this season.

“I would be in trouble if I don’t tip the Bulls,” said Stander.

“When I look at their squad and the way they play, the physicality that the have, they tend to - under Jake White - really go hard in the play-offs. It seems almost that that is where they are at their best.

“They have probably not performed at their best and have been hit or miss a few times this season. The Stormers also have a good chance this season,” he concluded, adding that, “I don’t really feel the Sharks.”