South Africa-born flanker CJ Stander has admitted to frantically learning the Gaelic lyrics to Ireland’s anthem Amhran na bhFiann (The Soldier’s Song) in case of his Test debut in the RBS 6 Nations.
Munster’s European Champions Cup captain excelled for South Africa’s Under-20s but later opted to join the Thomond Park province and chase qualification for Ireland.
Now eligible on residency, Stander has been drafted into Ireland’s Six Nations ranks and could well feature in the back-row for the opener against Wales on Sunday, February 7.
The 25-year-old admitted “the heart’s been pumping” even getting his hands on official Ireland training gear, so accepted he has no idea how he would keep calm in the event of his international bow.
“I’ve been very excited all week in camp, walking around with a smile.
“The heart’s pumping even just putting on the kit in training.
“It will be very difficult to keep myself level, but that’s the big challenge.
“My wife has brought up the anthem on Youtube, there’s a clip with the words there added.
“Donnacha Ryan’s fluent, so he’s been helping me with the words.
“So we’ll see how good his teaching has been if the chance comes up!”
Stander comfortably had the pedigree to force a Springboks breakthrough had he remained on home soil, but insisted he has battled for the last three years not just to qualify for Ireland on residency - but also to prove his worth and commitment.
“I can’t even describe it; it’s something I’m very passionate about and something I’ve worked very hard for,” said Stander.
“I’ve worked so hard to get here. I’m very proud to be in the squad.
“I played my first few matches at Munster at six and that’s where I started out.
“I’d just be delighted to be involved anywhere. I just want to put my hand up and see what happens.”