Ireland and Munster No 8 CJ Stander has announced he will retire from all forms of rugby at the end of the season in news that has shocked the sport.
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The South Africa-born 30-year-old won his 50th Test cap for his adopted country during Sunday’s 27-24 Six Nations win over Scotland.
Powerful back-row Stander, who is highly respected in the game, cited family reasons as the main motivation to call time on his career.
“All professional sportspeople are told ‘you will know when the time is right to hang up your boots’,” Stander posted on social media on Tuesday.
“It’s a sentiment one cannot fully comprehend until that day arrives.
“For me, that time has come, and I hereby publicly announce my retirement from all forms of rugby.
“I will be available to represent Munster until 27 June 2021 when my contract expires, and, for International duty, until the end of the mid-year Test window.”
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CJ Stander has been virtually ever-present for Ireland since his debut in 2016, having qualified under residency rules the previous year.
He was part of the 2017 British and Irish Lions tour of New Zealand and represented Ireland at the 2019 World Cup in Japan, as well as winning a Six Nations Grand Slam in 2018.
“During the lockdown, I did a stocktake of what matters most to me in life,” his statement continued.
“My faith, family and this incredible game I have played since I was six years old easily topped the list.
“However, I came to the realisation that my commitment to rugby has started to take an unfair toll on my family, who both in Limerick and South Africa have made considerable sacrifices for more than 25 years to allow me to live my dream.”
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CJ Stander, who will turn 31 early next month, reached 150 appearances for Munster at the end of January after joining from South African club Blue Bulls in 2012.
He was named his province’s player of the year on three occasions.
“I have just played my 50th Test for Ireland. I have never considered myself a foreigner in an Irish jumper,” he added.
“It was during a freezing training session at Munster towards the end of 2020 that I just knew I had entered the final stretch of my career.
“I asked myself whether I was still enjoying this enough to earn the continued support of Munster and Ireland, and to justify the sacrifices my family was making.
“From a performance perspective, the answer was yes. But I always had the intent to retire while I was still playing some of my best rugby. I also knew I wanted my daughter Everli to grow up around her family in South Africa.”
CJ Stander is married to Jean-Marié Neethling, the sister of South African Olympic swimming gold medalist, Ryk Neethling.
All professional sports people are told “you will know when the time is right to hang up your boots”. It’s a sentiment one cannot fully comprehend until that day arrives.
For me, that time has come, and I hereby publicly announce my retirement from all forms of rugby. pic.twitter.com/KK5zgWC0O1
— C J Stander (@CJStander) March 16, 2021