Why De Allende should be Bok No 12
Cape Town - Stormers centre Damian de Allende once again showed against the Waratahs this past weekend why he is currently the best inside centre in South Africa.
With incumbent Springbok centre and captain, Jean de Villiers, currently sidelined with a long-term knee injury, De Allende has shown that it will be extremely hard for Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer to ignore him.
The 23-year-old from Milnerton in Cape Town is a special player and I am convinced that given the opportunity, he will still play an integral role in the Bok set-up for years to come.
At 1.89m and weighing in at a hefty 101kg, De Allende is a big, strong boy. When he made his Test debut last year in treacherous conditions against Argentina at Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria, he was mostly required to do the work as a battering ram to help get the Boks across the gain line.
We all know how Meyer wants his inside centre to play. But I think De Allende brings much more to the party than just being a crash-baller at No 12.
He is a skilful player that can quickly sum up a situation. He runs with the ball in both hands and prefers to attack space. When he does make contact, he has also shown the willingness and ability to deftly off-load in the tackle, ala Sonny Bill Williams. He has the power and step of a Ma’a Nonu as well as the vision, pace and step of a Kurtley Beale and Israel Folau. He is defensively sound and has also has an excellent kicking game, which makes him a unique all-round footballer.
It was therefore not surprising to see the statistic before last week’s game that he has made the most line breaks and beaten the most defenders in Super Rugby. De Allende is also a calm individual who maintains excellent discipline on and off the field.
Besides all of this, he is also a valuable commodity in the South African context in that he is a player of colour with parents of mixed descent. I had to mention this because many people are still in the dark (excuse the pun) about his race.
De Allende therefore offers the complete package and if a Springbok team were to be to be selected today, he would be my first-choice No 12. The only question would then be who would partner him in the Bok midfield. And here one has to look no further than his Stormers midfield partner, Juan de Jongh.
The Stormers captain once again showed against the Waratahs on Saturday why he is rated so highly by New Zealand and Australian rugby experts. Not only is he an outstanding leader, but he also an experienced campaigner who has proven himself against the best the world has to offer. He has the unique ability to play both inside and outside centre. And with his great anticipation, pace and acceleration, he is the perfect foil for De Allende.
It is however sad to see that even though the 26-year-old De Jongh made his Test debut back in 2009, he has to date played in only 14 Tests for his country.
The current Springbok No 13 Jan Serfontein is 21-years-old, but can already boast 20 Test caps to his name. Serfontein’s Bulls team-mate JJ Engelbrecht, who is actually a wing, has played in 12 Tests at outside centre for the Boks.
Frans Steyn’s experience could be invaluable at this year’s Rugby World Cup, but his desire to play for the Boks again and his discipline has always been questionable. He is currently serving out a six week suspension for a dangerous spear tackle.
In South Africa we are still too pre-occupied with the size of our players. On Saturday the Aussie commentators couldn’t stop praising De Jongh for his brilliant defence and anticipation on attack. And despite being roughed up in a few games, they were also smitten with the bravery of Stormers fullback Cheslin Kolbe and the array of skills exhibited by the exciting youngster on the tour of Australasia.
I personally think a highly gifted, but small player like Christian Cullen would never have come close to a Springbok side had he been born in South Africa. In fact there are many other talented players in our country who would never have become an experienced All Black like Cullen, had they been born in New Zealand or Australia.
It’s sad to see that the obvious talents of these players are not really appreciated due to their perceived lack of size by the current Springbok coaching staff. It doesn’t matter how much heart an exceptionally gifted small player shows, unfortunately, in South Africa they will always be deemed too small.
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