Ireland international CJ Stander has praised the mental strength of Bundee Aki and believes the Connacht centre will enjoy an "unbelievable" Test career.

The thorny issue of the residency rule was the centre of attention in the lead-up to the game as Joe Schmidt named the Auckland-born centre in his November Series squad, and Aki duly made his debut in the 38-3 demolition of South Africa.

The 27-year-old has starred for Connacht in his three years in Galway, helping the underdogs to the Pro14 title last year, before progressing to the Ireland squad.

The residency rule period will be extended to five years in 2020, but Aki joins the likes of Stander, Jared Payne, Rob Herring, Quin Roux and Richardt Strauss who have availed of the ruling to line out for Ireland, something former international Neil Francis described last week as "fundamentally and morally wrong".

Aki played the full 80 minutes in an impressive debut and team-mate Stander, who made his own Ireland debut amid similar reservations within certain quarters last year, acknowledged the mental fortitude shown in light of the off-field commentary.

"He did nothing wrong. He played an unbelievable game and I’m delighted for him" - CJ Stander

"It was always going to happen. It’s tough," he told RTÉ Radio Sport.

"He had a great game. Everyone has opinions and they want to voice it. The way he dealt with it was one of the best ways.

"Just leave it out there on the pitch. If they want to keep on judging him, that’s fine, he did nothing wrong. He played an unbelievable game and I’m delighted for him."

Reflecting on his performance alongside Robbie Henshaw in midfield, Stander enthuses that it bodes well for the future of Irish rugby.

"He brings something different and an offload game. He plays hard and he trains hard. He really works hard and lifts the team the way he plays. 

"To see that first tackle he put in on Connie Westhuizen was unbelievable, it picked up the whole team and I’m delighted he got his Test debut. He worked hard to get there and he is going to have an unbelievable international career."

Schmidt is expected to make a number of team changes following the comprehensive victory at the weekend for Saturday’s encounter with Fiji.

It is just the fourth meeting of the countries, and with an average winning margin of more than 39 points for the hosts in the previous three encounters, Ireland are strong favourites to make it two wins from two for the Series.

As one would expect, Schmidt has been drilling his team on what to expect and the Munster No 8 is braced for a different type challenge.

"We’ve been looking at them for the past week and a half just to see what they bring to the table. We know some of their players as individuals, we know what they can do.

"They like an open game where they can spread the ball and get their big ball carriers in and make sure they get the offloads.

"We know what it is going to take for us in defence."

Nakarawa breaks the challenge of Stander in the Champions Cup

One player who will be familiar to Irish rugby followers is former Glasgow lock Leone Nakarawa. The rampaging lock is the talisman of the team and has continued his Pro 14 form into the Top 14 with Racing Metro.

Stander knows the importance of the 6ft 7inch lock to Fiji’s off-loading game.

"Nakarawa is known for that. If he plays well for any team, they play well," he says.

"We have to look after the ball, if we give them a sniff of a break, they will take it and punish you."

Ireland v Fiji (5.30pm kick-off), is live on RTÉ 2 and the RTÉ Player from 4.30pm and on RTÉ Radio 1's Saturday Sport. RTE Sport Online will have a live blog from 5pm.