Jake White has confirmed that CJ Stander will not play professional rugby again. White wanted Stander back at the Bulls, where it all started for the retired 50 Test Ireland veteran nine years ago. But there will be no fairytale return to Pretoria for one of South Africa’s finest rugby exports.
Stander will return to South Africa in the next few months to live and be close to his family, but his rugby days will be done at 31 years of age.
Stander a few days ago in an interview said he had seven or eight years of rugby in him. But it was a statement lost in translation.
This reveal from Stander prompted me to write a story urging Bulls coach and World Cup winner White to sign Stander and bring him home.
White, when I spoke with him, said he would sign Stander ‘today’ if he was available. There is huge regard from White for Stander and respect for what he has done at Munster and for Ireland.
White, who in a year has won Super Rugby Unlocked with the Bulls and guided the province to a first Currie Cup in a decade, has been responsible for bringing back seasoned veterans to the Bulls, while he integrates the best juniors into the senior squad.
Stander’s signature would have been a coup, but when the two spoke on Tuesday, Stander confirmed his retirement.
Stander, like any Irish international who retires is the beneficiary of a retirement fund that is built up over this playing career. If he plays again, he loses out on that retirement fund.
‘I thought it may be the case because previously I had known of this situation, but didn’t know if it still was the case. I made contact with CJ and let him know that I wanted him to be part of the Bulls. He said he was flattered and humbled and appreciative that there was such an interest in him, but he confirmed that the Irish Rugby Union retirement policies didn’t allow for a return to professional rugby as it would compromise and prejudice any retirement fund payouts.
‘He reiterated his love for rugby and that his decision was based on wanting his children to be near their family in South Africa and to experience their cousins, uncles, aunts and grand parents. He said that his comment on having seven or eight years left was in relation to how his body felt. He was attempting to explain that his decision to retire had nothing to do with him having had enough of rugby or his body having had enough and that his body felt great and that from that perspective he had ‘seven or eight years’ left in him.’
Stander played 150 matches for Munster, 50 Tests for Ireland and was part of the British & Irish Lions drawn series against the All Blacks in New Zealand in 2017.