Stander, out of contract at the end of the season, is the latest international star to attract the attention of France’s richest club and its billionaire owner, the Syria-born French businessman Mohed Altrad.
The South African-born back-rower, who made his Irish debut in the 2016 Six Nations, qualifying through residency three years on from his move to Munster, is currently in negotiations through his representatives with the IRFU on a contract extension. Well-placed sources indicate the 27-year-old will be offered a basic salary in the region of €400,000 per year, plus incentives. It has also been indicated tothat he wants to remain in Ireland to further his international career, but the eye-watering offer from Montpellier, €70,000 per month, has been sure to complicate matters.
However, the IRFU remain confident they will be in a position to announce a new deal this week for a player capped 18 times by Joe Schmidt, and who toured New Zealand as a British & Irish Lion during the summer, appearing in the final Test against the All Blacks.
The Munster star leads this season’s Champions Cup in carries with 71 after four rounds and if the IRFU persuades Stander to stay put, it will complete a very satisfactory week’s business for the Union and its Performance Director David Nucifora, with Munster captain Peter O’Mahony and Leinster prop Tadhg Furlong signing new three-year IRFU contracts before the weekend.
Montpellier owner Altrad has changed the face of French rugby with his galactico strategy in bringing in many of the game’s big names, including Aaron Cruden, Louis Picamoles and Ruan Pienaar, on inflated contracts. He is also mired in ongoing controversy over his relationship with FFR president Bernard Laporte, but that hasn’t stopped him pressing with his plan to dominate Top 14 rugby for the foreseeable future.
The latest twist in Stander’s contract talks comes in the wake of comments from Irish coach Schmidt on some “inaccurate” reports surrounding the contract negotiations of Irish players.
“It’s a frustrating time for us because we know how positive the conversations are most of the time and you get things thrown up on print sometimes that you know are inaccurate,” said Schmidt at the weekend’s RTÉ Sports Awards. “Those sorts of things, while they are frustrating at the time, as long as it works out OK in the end (it’s all right).
“We were quietly confident (O’Mahony would sign). You’re never sure because you know there are opportunities abroad and they may offer more opportunity financially.
“Also, Peter is an intelligent man, he’s going to look to broaden his horizons at some stage and Jess, his wife, is very intelligent as well.
“They are fantastic people and we want to keep them in the country.
“I just know what it means to him to play for Munster, to play for Ireland and we’re delighted that he’s going to continue to do that.”