WP ‘raid suburbs’ for final
Damian de Allende (Gallo Images)
Cape Town - You do not normally associate Milnerton, an Atlantic seaside suburb of this city commanding a postcard-perfect, front-on view of Table Mountain, with significant rugby prowess.
So plenty of its residents will be chuffed to learn that, in throwing a Currie Cup final curveball by selecting the 20-year-old utility back Damian de Allende for the string-pulling role of inside centre, Western Province have simultaneously rewarded one of the area’s emerging sporting sons.
De Allende is a pretty recent product of unfashionable Milnerton High School, and when he was representing first the Ikey Tigers in the 2012 Varsity Cup and then earning maiden Vodacom Cup appearances for WP, would probably have felt it unlikely that he would run out in front of some 50 000 overwhelmingly Sharks-partial fans in the domestic showpiece at Mr Price Kings Park on Saturday.
It is the surprise move the underdogs have come up with - though recent history suggests a firm Newlands culture of throwing under-21s confidently to senior combat, often with commendable success - for the big day.
With several of their “hardebaarde” in various positions injured and unavailable for the match, coach Allister Coetzee
and company have presumably come to the conclusion that they might as well go the whole hog in pinning huge faith in their youth production line.
Clearly there are risks attached to De Allende - who has looked fearless and a livewire whenever introduced mostly at wing off the bench this campaign - suddenly unseating 25-year-old Marcel Brache for the No 12 jersey after the latter has been stationed there for the lion’s share of the long slog to the final.
But that is apparently one of the very reasons Province have made the change: it seems there is a feeling among the team hierarchy that Brache, not exactly the most experienced first-class customer himself, has become a little jaded of late after being an attacking kingpin in earliest round-robin activity this year.
Ironically also a product of Varsity Cup duty with UCT, Brache’s play (particularly in handling terms) has become slightly error-prone.
Probed by Sport24 over whether expected damp, heavy-pitch conditions in Durban on Saturday might have influenced the selection, Coetzee replied: “100 percent correct... I’m very impressed by what I’ve seen of Damian.
“Marcel has played all the games (preceding the final), you know; he’s not that used to full Currie Cups and has had a lot of work to do.
“Brache will be doing his job off the bench; we will probably be needing his (greater) experience towards the end.
“We’ve got to front up physically and I think Damian is the right choice. He’s quite big and tall and has explosive pace, not to mention good core skills. Whenever he’s come on for us he’s made a massive impression - even last week (in the semi-final against the Lions) it was telling.
“Yes, he is young and inexperienced but the important thing is that he is good enough; that needs to be understood. He knows our systems. Young guys have to start somewhere and this is a great start for him, isn’t it?”
Although their physical dimensions are fairly similar, with both listed in profiles around the 1.90m mark in height terms and 90kg in weight, De Allende looks particularly like a strong specimen and Province hope to make use of his decent boot as well.
Some reassurance for De Allende is that he is to be partnered by a Springbok in Juan de Jongh, who will doubtless be expected to encourage him and communicate vigorously.
“He’s also got someone like Bryan Habana
to lean on, plus a pack that must make sure they lay a good platform,” Coetzee said. “He must just play, and enjoy himself.”
Province will also be taking injured captain and normal inside centre Jean de Villiers to KwaZulu-Natal with them, and his mentoring and calming influence will be sought to smooth the rookie’s way.
There are no other surprises in the Province side revealed at a press briefing on Wednesday.
Asked whether any thought was given to starting the demanding occasion with either of their seasoned substitute props, Deon Carstens
and Brok Harris
, instead of sticking to the all-under-21 front row trio of Steven Kitshoff, Scarra Ntubeni and Frans Malherbe
, Coetzee said: “No, I think the young three have done very well.
“I was pleased with them last week and it’s another challenge for them this time. It’s a matter of the whole pack, and not just the front row, (fronting up).
“Cohesion is so important; we’ve spoken as a pack and as a team about just how difficult this game will be.
“The players have to own their performances; that’s what it’s about in finals.”*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing
15. Gio Aplon, 14. Gerhard van den Heever, 13. Juan de Jongh, 12. Damian de Allende, 11. Bryan Habana
, 10. Demetri Catrakilis, 9. Nic Groom, 8. Duane Vermeulen
, 7. Don Armand, 6. Deon Fourie (captain), 5. De Kock Steenkamp, 4. Eben Etzebeth
, 3. Frans Malherbe
, 2. Scarra Ntubeni, 1. Steven Kitshoff
Substitutes: 16. Deon Carstens
, 17. Brok Harris
, 18. Wilhelm van der Sluys, 19. Jebb Sinclair, 20. Louis Schreuder, 21. Marcel Brache, 22. Joe Pietersen