When the need is greatest, the will is strongest. Munster forward CJ Stander regards next Saturday’s crunch Champions Cup match against Saracens as the sort of do-or-die "cup rugby" occasion players want to experience when they join the province.
Successive defeats to Clermont Auvergne have put Munster’s backs against the wall but the South African argues that this is when the province are at their best.
“We have to win the next two games. Saracens are a great team and they play great rugby. But we are going out there to play our game and, at the end of the day, win the game. It is cup rugby — if we don’t win that game, we can say goodbye. It is important for us to do the things we have done previously this year. Get the points and get back to Thomond Park and go from there,” he said.
The bonus point earned in defeat against Clermont mat yet prove important. And Munster spirits were buoyed ahead of the trip to London by the 31-7 bonus-point win over Zebre in Parma on Saturday, with Stander producing his fourth man-of-the-match performance of the campaign.
“First half was good, the second half just got mucky,” says Stander, of that Guinness Pro12 win. “Small mistakes here and there from both sides so it slowed down a bit. We wanted to play a tempo game but that is the way it happens.
“We just wanted to come out and get the win, the four points — the bonus point is extra. It is going to help us at the end of the season in the table and it is good to get a win before the Champions Cup.”
The win saw good habits consolidated. “It was just a matter of keep on doing what you are doing. Play the Munster way now get around the corners — keep it in their 22. For the first 10 or 15 minutes of the second half we went down to their tempo. But we stuck at the game and got the bonus point,” he added.
The return to fitness of Keith Earls, who made his first appearance of the campaign, gave the entire squad a boost, pointed out Stander, who also welcomed prop James Cronin’s recovery from a shoulder injury.
"They had a great impact. They came on in the second half and brought that flair. Jamesie is a strong scrummager. When you look around and see Earlsy, you know he is a magic man. It is good to see him back. It has been a long road and I’m delighted for him."
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