For the 50,000 gathered at the Aviva, and the hundreds of thousands watching at home, CJ Stander's legendary status was affirmed after one rendition of the two national anthems and 40 minutes of rugby. The members of the Irish presspack who stuck out the mixed zone, however, gained a more intimate glimpse of Stander's bone fides in the bowels of the Aviva yesterday evening.
Near the very end of a dreary February afternoon, following a result that left one unsure whether to be delighted or downtrodden, CJ Stander shuffled into the mixed zone in his Louis Copeland. He then attempted a maneuvre possibly never attempted by a professional athelte in the history of half-shaven men in their thirties and forties writing words about sport. Stander stuck his arm out and shook the hand of each of the 10 or so gathered journalists. Neil O'Riordan, Vincent Hogan, Kieran Cunningham, yours truly: he did not discriminate. It was the most surreal mixed zone moment I'd ever witnessed.
I can report that CJ Stander has a solid handshake.
"A few new faces I haven't seen before," he said to the presspack, as if he'd been doing these interviews for years.
Stander ably answered some perfucntory questions about his performance, his first cap, the short turnaround for France but eventually talk got round to his singing of Amhrann na bhFiann. Stander was asked to grade his own performance.
I was real emotional. It was my first time getting out there in front of the president and the fans. I'd say 10... I was lucky I was next to Tommy O'Donnell and [Conor] Murray, when I got lost here and there, it was easy enough just to step in. Donnacha Ryan learned me the whole thing so I had to make him proud.
He said he'd written the words out phonetically before the game.
There was a guy on YouTube, he tells you what to write down. But next time, I'm going to sing it perfect, all the right words.
He was charismatic, ebullient, engaged. Maybe it was the buzz of that first cap or the strangeness of being thrown into international rugby aged 26, but Stander seemed overjoyed just to be there. And it seemed like he wouldn't be giving up a place in Ireland's backrow anytime soon.
Later as I was heading for the exit, I met Stander again. He held a door for me in the hallway and said he'd been late to the mixed zone because he'd been drug tested after the match. Clearly someone in rugby's antidoping community saw his performance and thought it was worthwhile checking Stander's credentials. He said his body would be fine for France as he turned for the bus.
We'll be seeing more of Christiaan Johann Stander.