Former Ireland captain Rory Best says retiring No 8 CJ Stander is ‘unequivocally’ an example of how rugby’s residency rules can be a positive.
Stander on Tuesday announced that he would be retiring from professional rugby at the end of the current season to return to South Africa.
Still just 30 years old, Stander qualified to represent Ireland in 2016 after moving to Munster from the Vodacom Bulls in 2012 and recently made his 50th appearance against Scotland.
However, in an explosive tweet – which has since been deleted – former Samoa international Dan Leo said that Stander having the ability to retire to return to South Africa ‘makes a mockery of the game’ more than Pacific Island players who want to represent a second country in their career.
Writing in his column for BBC Sport, former Ireland hooker Best, who played alongside Stander at Test level, paid tribute to the loose forward, while defending his decision to represent Ireland internationally.
‘I was lucky to captain CJ from his first Test start until I retired and what he gave in every game was a priceless loyalty,’ Best wrote.
‘You know you can rely on him, no matter what way you go he will be 100% behind you because he believes in the importance of the team over self.
‘Emotionally and physically, he is relentless. You can hear it now more than ever without crowds, when Ireland go to the scrum you will always hear CJ’s voice. “Come on front row, come on boys, let’s go”.
‘It is constant, and the more tired he gets the louder he becomes. These are the differences he makes outside of his immense rugby ability, they are massive energisers and they are so hard to find.
‘People are divided on the residency rule. What I can say unequivocally is that if every overseas player had CJ Stander’s attitude to being an Irish rugby player and to representing the Irish jersey, it would only be a good thing.
‘I’m sure it wasn’t the jersey he grew up wanting to represent, but that buy-in and emotion have made CJ a shining example of why the residency rule can be a huge positive.’
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