CJ Stander with wife Jean-Marie and parents Jannie and Amanda visit Mayor Kieran O'Hanlon Picture: Press 22
INTERNATIONAL rugby player CJ Stander’s parents could be forgiven for resenting Limerick for claiming their son, but the opposite is true for the South African natives, who say that they “love Limerick”.
Jannie and Amanda Stander visited the Limerick Leader office this Wednesday morning ahead of their flight home, following an almost three-week stay in Ireland.
They are pleased that their son, who turned 27 on the day of the interview, is putting down roots in Limerick, following the news that he and his wife Jean-Marie have purchased a house in Castleconnell.
“I told him this morning, ‘you’re still my son, and you’re still a South African born child, and when you came to Ireland in 2012, you were a boy, but now, you’re a real Limerick man!” exclaimed Jannie.
“He has bought a house for himself, and now he’s settled. They got the keys last Monday, so they are going to paint it and then move in.
“We are about 10,000km from CJ and Jean-Marie, and we probably see them once a year, and it’s good for me to see that they love Limerick,” he said.
“The way that they moved from South Africa to Ireland and especially to Limerick, they loved it. And they won’t leave Limerick, I think it’s for good. When I die, they can come to bury me - otherwise, they can stay!” he laughed.
Jannie and Amanda met with Mayor of Limerick City and County Council, Cllr Kieran O’Hanlon, on Tuesday at his office. There, they were presented with a gift by the mayor to mark their visit, and were joined by CJ and his wife Jean-Marie.
Stander and his now-wife moved to Limerick as a last-ditch attempt to make rugby work when “ the Springboks didn’t support him”, according to his mum.
“It was a big decision for him to come to Ireland for the first time, and then he wanted to play international rugby, and he said, ‘Ireland is supporting me’, because the Springboks didn’t support him.
“From the start, we’ve been at the three games in South Africa with Irish shirts on, flags, and all our friends have gone with CJ Stander shirts,” said Amanda.
When CJ was a child, he said, “Mum, if I can’t play rugby I’m not going to school!” his mother recalls - and it’s little wonder, given that both sides of his family have had successful rugby players in the past.
The parents said that they were incredibly saddened to hear of Anthony Foley’s death. He “really helped and believed in CJ” when he arrived in Ireland, and Amanda even met Axel and his wife Olive when she was last in Limerick.
“It was very hard for the whole team, when they were supposed to play that day. CJ called me and he didn’t believe it, actually, at first, because he had spoken to him the night before,” she said.
When asked about their own impressions of Limerick, Jannie and Amanda said that they are enamoured by the historic buildings - including King John’s Castle, which they said “looks beautiful” - the churches and the warm people.
“I love the [Milk] market on Saturday mornings. CJ and Jean-Marie were telling me I must go, and every Saturday they send me a photo from when they go there,” said Amanda.
Jannie said: “I love the castles and the churches. And the River Shannon - I’m a farmer, I would love if I had the River Shannon running through my farm.
“You know, I went to the shop to buy a salad while I was here, and when I went a second time, the girl remembered me! You wouldn’t get that in South Africa, the people are so nice. You can walk down the street and people are saying ‘hi’,” he continued.
“I can’t believe there is such a place as Thomond Park. In South Africa, you don’t get that atmosphere in a rugby stadium, and the people behave themselves, and they are so quiet when somebody is kicking a goal. I was very impressed, it’s beautiful,” added Jannie, who thinks that his son will make a full recovery before the Saracens clash.
The number 8 player is planning to start growing vegetables at his new house - a hobby he has picked up after his farming childhood.
“It’s a lovely back yard. Of course, when they saw the vegetables here, he wanted to show people here how it’s done. It’s in his blood, I think,” said Amanda.
Jannie said that he is unable to visit regularly because of the farm at home in George, South Africa, but the parents said that they would make the journey again if they hear that they are going to be blessed with a grandchild.
“When I had CJ, my mum came to help, so we would have to do something if we get a grandchild!” said Amanda.