South African-born former Ireland captain Dion O’Cuinneagain has defended CJ Stander’s decision to return to his country of birth after hanging up his boots.
Stander came under criticism from former Samoa player Daniel Leo when he outlined plans to return to South Africa last year after surprisingly announcing his decision to retire from all rugby.
O’Cuinneagain had a similar career to Stander in that he started playing rugby professionally in South Africa, captaining the national sevens team, before moving overseas and qualifying to play for Ireland.
In an interview with RugbyPass, the former loose forward, who also returned to South Africa to continue working as a doctor in Cape Town, defended Stander.
“My understanding is Stander returned home for family reasons and also had an opportunity through his brother-in-law, Ryk Neethling, to get involved in property,” the 49-year-old told RugbyPass.
“I’m sure CJ also sees far more opportunities in South Africa working with his brother-in-law. I feel that he returned to the country at the right time ahead of the British & Irish Lions series against the Springboks and boosted his profile by appearing on SuperSport TV as an analyst.”
Player eligibility has been a hot topic recently after World Rugby amended the rules to allow players to change Test teams after a stand-down period of three years.
Despite being a dual international himself, O’Cuinneagain is not sold on the change.
“I have always felt that once you have nailed your name to a flag, you should play for that country and it’s where you stay for the rest of your career,” he said. “In my case, I played sevens for South Africa before turning out for Ireland but at that stage it wasn’t regarded as a full international cap.
“I don’t think it’s such a good idea to be able to swap allegiance and move between countries so easily.”
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