United Rugby Championship: Munster legend backs ‘explosive’ Evan Roos to shine for Springboks at World Cup

David Skippers
CJ Stander and Evan Roos image 2023.jpg

Ahead of Saturday’s United Rugby Championship (URC) final between the Stormers and Munster in Cape Town, the Irish province’s former back-row CJ Stander is backing the men from the Cape’s number eight Evan Roos’ “explosive” style to secure him a spot in the Springboks’ squad for the World Cup later this year.

Roos was the undoubted star of last year’s inaugural URC campaign as he was crowned the Players’ Player of the Season, Fans’ Player of the Season, Next-Gen Player of the Season and earned a place in the tournament’s Dream Team.

Injury setbacks

He also made three Springbok appearances but suffered a broken rib in the end-of-year Test against England last November before sustaining a serious knee injury in the Stormers‘ Round 13 loss to Ulster in January.

Roos then made his return to action in the Stormers’ Round 17 defeat to Munster in Cape Town and although he hasn’t reached the levels of last season, he has impressed with some solid performances during the play-offs – something which has caught the eye of Munster legend Stander.

“For me, he is the obvious choice at number eight. He plays hard, is physical,” said Stander.

“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.”

Despite those attributes, Roos faces tough opposition at Springbok level in Leicester Tigers’ Jasper Wiese, who was recently named as the Premiership’s Players’ Player of the Year, and Ulster’s experienced number eight Duane Vermeulen.

Wiese and Vermeulen have shown that they have all-round skills and Roos’ critics have pointed out that he needs to add some more strings to his bow to compete with the more experienced duo for the Boks’ number eight jersey.

But Stander, who represented Ireland in 51 Tests, believes the 23-year-old has shown improvement in his game.

“After he made his mark at junior level, he subsequently started improving his work rate and working on his defence,” he said.

“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.”

With the improved physicality in his game, Roos’ discipline has let him down on the odd occasion. He was sent to the sin bin in just his second game back from injury when he shoved Benetton flanker Manuel Zuliani’s head into the ground after a maul.

Not an isolated incident

That was not an isolated incident as he was also yellow carded for a similar offence against Edinburgh last October and he escaped punishment during a clash against Leinster last season when he also shoved Harry Byrne’s head into the turf.

He has shown improvement since the Zuliani infringement and Stander expects him to become an asset for South Africa in the international arena.

“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 number eight jersey for a long time.”

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