De Al­lende comes of age for Boks

The Star Early Edition - - RUGBY - ASHFAK MO­HAMED

HE CEL­E­BRATED his 23rd birth­day on Tues­day and for Damian de Al­lende, pic­tured, his se­lec­tion yes­ter­day on the Spring­bok bench for Satur­day’s Test against Wales is a present that comes at just the right time.

While the Western Prov­ince mid­fielder had a Su­per Rugby sea­son to re­mem­ber as he es­tab­lished him­self in the Storm­ers side, and then made his Test de­but against Ar­gentina in Au­gust, it has been a for­get­table pe­riod for the for­mer Mil­ner­ton High pupil since then.

A knee lig­a­ment in­jury sus­tained against the Sharks on May 31 meant that De Al­lende couldn’t fea­ture against Wales in June, and he was on the side­lines un­til the open­ing Rugby Cham­pi­onship Test against Ar­gentina. But then fate con­spired to make life dif­fi­cult for him as he was firstly picked out of po­si­tion at out­side cen­tre, and then a freak­ish rain and hail­storm bat­tered Lof­tus Vers­feld just be­fore kick-off.

So that pre­vented De Al­lende from show­cas­ing his pass­ing and run­ning skills, and then he had to deal with the op­po­site weather ef­fect a week later in Salta, where a heat­wave on match day played a part in the Boks just hold­ing off Los Pu­mas 33-31.

And that was the last we’ve seen of him on a rugby field, as Saru de­cided that none of the con­tracted Spring­boks could play in the lat­ter stages of the Cur­rie Cup.

So, de­spite De Al­lende not get­ting any fur­ther game time in the Rugby Cham­pi­onship, he wasn’t al­lowed to play for WP, and he hasn’t made the bench in the three Tests on the Novem­ber tour ei­ther, with Jan Ser­fontein con­tin­u­ing to part­ner cap­tain Jean de Vil­liers in mid­field.

But the Boks have lacked a cre­ative spark on at­tack, and De Al­lende will hope to show Meyer ex­actly what he can of­fer with ball-in­hand if he comes off the bench at the Mil­len­nium Sta­dium this week­end.

With the Bok coach re­fus­ing to pick Juan de Jongh, there aren’t many other mid­field op­tions out­side of De Vil­liers and Ser­fontein go­ing into the World Cup, with the sit­u­a­tion around Ja­pan­based Jaque Fourie un­clear at the mo­ment.

But Meyer be­lieves that De Al­lende can still make a late charge for a start­ing po­si­tion. “Damian is a very bright prospect and he was re­ally bril­liant in Su­per Rugby. We got him in­volved and un­for­tu­nately he got in­jured (for the Storm­ers against the Sharks) when he was se­lected. Then we played him in two games to see what he could do, but he was still not at his best after his in­jury, so it has been tough for him,” the coach said yes­ter­day.

“He is a great player, and it is a ques­tion mark (around him) as he hasn’t played (since Au­gust 23), but I had a good one-on-one with him, and I think next year he’s go­ing to be bril­liant. He is go­ing to press hard for the start­ing jersey.

“He’s a great player, and it’s the same with Lwazi (Mvovo), who hasn’t played for quite some time. The way we see it, it is a lot of young­sters that wouldn’t have got the chance to play, and th­ese guys have proven them­selves. So, I’m re­ally ex­cited about th­ese guys.”

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