CJ Stander: ‘When I was six, my dad ran over me with the truck. That was worse than this’

redit ©INPHO/Dan Sheridan
By Simon Lewis
Rugby and Golf Correspondent

CJ Stander is well used to picking himself up, dusting himself off and starting all over again and this Sunday against France will be no exception for the Ireland No. 8.

He has been doing it since he was six, when he went to school a day after an unfortunate collision with a pick-up truck driven by his father on the family farm in George, South Africa. Now, five weeks on from fracturing an eye socket and cheekbone against England, the Munster back-rower will do it again at Aviva Stadium when he rejoins the Guinness Six Nations championship in the fourth and penultimate round.

Stander’s nonchalance about such incidents cannot hide their violence but the 28-year-old set to win his 30th cap for Ireland dismisses them as mere mishaps.

Of the facial injuries suffered in the opening minutes of the England game, which saw him play on for another hour until he was withdrawn from the fray, Stander said: “I fractured my eye socket and the cheekbone. It wasn’t too bad. It wasn’t really that sore.

“I thought it was a nose break when it happened. My nose has broken probably six times since December so I thought it was just normal and kept on playing. I blew my nose just after half-time and I could feel this little bump. I just spoke to the doc and he said ‘it doesn’t look good’ and I was taken off after about 65 minutes.

“I think (it was) my first carry, four or five minutes into the game. It didn’t really feel like anything. A few times before this game, I would carry and I would get a good tackle in or someone would tackle me and my insides would be in my cheek so out of 10 this probably felt like a one or a two. It just felt like a normal face hit.

“I remember when I was six years old my dad actually ran over me with the truck, the pick-up, that was a Sunday evening and I went to school on a Monday morning. That was worse than this.”

A statement like that clearly requires further investigation and Stander is invited to offer more detail.

I was six, so I was trying to be funny. My dad was reversing and I kept running after him and I missed the step.

“My dad was going to feed the calves. Me and my cousin were on the farm and he was like ‘your dad is going to leave us’ and I was six and he was about 15. We ran after my dad. There was this narrow field so you could just reverse back and he couldn’t see us. We jumped on, he was fine, I missed the step and fell underneath and I hit my head on the ball-joint, where the trailer hitches on and then I just remember my dad grabbing me from underneath and saying ‘what are you doing?’ And I was like ‘sorry about that’.

“I had a scar and I went to school on the Monday morning. That was a Sunday evening. That’s what happens on a farm. Me and my brother we were loose on the farm so we got used to those hits early.

“After that, look, I like those collisions, I like running into someone and getting a good hit. It’s a personal battle every time you run onto a pitch and when you get a good hit sometimes you go ‘that’s a good f...ing hit, man’ and I can’t wait for the next one to get someone else back.

“There’s a feeling I get from carrying and tackling, I think all of us do, it’s a physical game and things can happen. We all love that feeling, it’s a good feeling, a bit of tingling in your stomach when you get a hit.”

Stander went back to Munster to rehabilitate after the England knock and was back running three days later. He took his first contact in training last week and was delighted to get back on the bike.

“It’s tough playing touch and playing the ball and not training with the boys firstly but took some contact last week and everything’s fine, no problems.

“We trained against the U-20s and in fairness to them they never hold back at all, it doesn’t matter if you’re wearing the wrong bib or the right bib, they gave it to us fully. It’s great to be back.”

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