Evan Roos. (Photo by EJ Langner/Gallo Images)
- Former Munster and Ireland star CJ Stander has no doubt that Evan Roos would be his bolter in the Springboks’ World Cup team.
- He believes the Stormers talisman’s explosiveness is unmatched and that he would always be up for the rigours of the international game.
- Despite some on-field discipline issues, Stander says the 23-year-old has reined himself in and is “playing well” after injury.
He first needs to get down to business in Saturday’s URC final, but that hasn’t deterred Munster legend and former Irish international CJ Stander from endorsing Evan Roos for Springbok duty in this year’s World Cup in France.
It’s been a challenging season for the dynamic, robust Stormers No 8 following a breakout campaign in 2021/22, which culminated in a Player of the Tournament accolade as well as three international caps.
However, a rib injury sustained against England at Twickenham and then a nasty twist of the knee, when Duane Vermeulen “croc-rolled” him out of a ruck in the Capetonians’ meeting with Ulster in January, robbed Roos of game-time and the opportunity to build on last year’s platform.
His return in April was unspectacular, which was perhaps understandable given that it coincided with a Stormers wobble, but he’s been building an impressive head of steam in the playoffs, convincing Stander again of his value.
“For me, he is the obvious choice at No.8. He plays hard, is physical,” Stander told a media call of the URC this week.
“I actually watched him play for Paarl Boys’ High a few years ago and back then I already thought he’s got unbelievable athletic abilities.”
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Explosiveness alone though wouldn’t be enough for Roos to dislodge the brilliant Jasper Wiese, fresh off being named the English Premiership’s best player, or the grizzled Vermeulen as the nature of a World Cup requires players to operate in a more risk-free, attritional on-field environment.
All-round ability and a willingness to stick to some basics become imperative.
Stander argues Roos has already shown he is no one-trick pony.
“After he made his mark at junior level, he subsequently started improving his work rate and working on his defence,” said the 51-cap retired Ireland star.
“Evan is unbelievably explosive. I saw him score a try against Connacht at the Danie Craven Stadium earlier this season and you don’t see that explosiveness anymore.
“Since that day I have followed him and I really like the way he plays. I wouldn’t blink picking him.”
Ironically, Roos’ focus on becoming more of a relentless physical presence during matches has led to him being accused of periodically seeing red mist and losing some of his discipline.
That was evident in the win over Benetton. In his second match back from the knee injury, Roos was shown a yellow card in the 25th minute for shoving Manuel Zuliani’s head into the ground from a maul.
Perhaps the recipient of a stern talk afterwards, his behaviour has been far more productive … and the Bok brains trust is surely keeping an eye on him.
“Maybe there was a bit too much physicality at the start of the year and he did a few things that weren’t exactly according to the laws,” said Stander.
“He has come back from injury, he is fit and playing well. Evan is a great all-round player and someone I think will be in the Springbok No 8 jersey for a long time.”
The URC final between the Stormers and Munster at Cape Town Stadium kicks off at 18:30.