CJ Stander says winning over in Europe remains a big challenge for the South African sides in the Vodacom URC, but that it’s one they are happy to embrace.
No team from the Rainbow Nation has won on European soil so far this season, with the Hollywoodbets Sharks losing away to Munster and Leinster, while the Emirates Lions and the Vodacom Bulls both went down to narrow defeats in Edinburgh and Ulster respectively last weekend.
Now all four of the South African franchises are on the road for the next two weeks, while the DHL Stormers are heading into a four-match tour, with the Bulls and the Lions both facing three successive trips.
The table-topping Stormers begin their extended stay in Europe by traveling to Glasgow on Friday night, while the Sharks take on the Ospreys at the Twickenham Stoop on the same evening in a first-ever Vodacom URC match in London.
The Vodacom Bulls and Lions will both be out in Italy for games against Zebre Parma and unbeaten Benetton respectively.
Former Munster and Ireland star Stander, who is now back in the land of his birth South Africa, has been speaking about what lies in store for the SA sides in a Vodacom URC round table.
“It’s still a big challenge for them to travel,” said the ex-back row man.
“It’s something they are trying to get their heads around and it’s probably going to take another half a season to get to a place where they are well rested when they arrive.
“It’s about getting that balance correct when they go over to Europe to get those points.
“If you look at the Stormers and the Bulls the last two years, they didn’t get a lot of points when they traveled. They made most of their points when they were back home. If they can get that correct, then the machine will start ticking over.
“But the sense from the teams and the players is that being in this competition is exactly where they want to be. There’s a lot of excitement around it, especially now that the Stormers have tasted glory.
“The Vodacom URC gives you the opportunity to play against world-class teams every weekend, to test yourself. It is also very important in terms of bringing young talent through.
“With the Springbok players coming back from the World Cup, there will be even more excitement around the competition as they will generally make those teams better. When they do come back, you will probably see a spike in performance.”
As for Munster, where he spent nine years, Stander says they are now a team everyone wants to beat following their Vodacom URC title triumph last season.
“When you win a trophy, you always have a target on your back, no matter whether you are the most loved or the most hated team,” he said.
“They are obviously the top team at the moment and they have started quite well.
“They are playing the type of rugby that Munster is known for, with a lot of hard work and a lot of players standing up to the plate.
“The last two years, they have brought 19 and 20 years old through and they are playing very well this season.”
Stander also shared his thoughts on World Cup-winning Springbok coach Jacques Nienaber joining Leinster.
“I am actually jealous of the Leinster squad getting Jacques,” he said. “I was coached by him at Munster and I just loved him as a coach.
“The thing about him is he is unbelievable technically and defensive-wise. He is the best.
“He will give them another step in the ladder mentally and physically. He will definitely take them to the next level.”
Photo: Harry Murphy/Gallo Images