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Damian de Allende © Gallo Images

Damian bouncing back from frustrating year

It would technically not be 100 percent correct to state that Damian de Allende has returned to his finest form because he is now completely fit.

The Springbok inside centre, one of the star players at the 2015 World Cup in England but who has lost his way since then, has been struggling with flu since towards the end of the DHL Stormers’ Vodacom Super Rugby tour of Australasia. And he played with a touch of flu against the Blues at Newlands last weekend.

“I picked up the flu on the Friday morning before our last tour match against the Highlanders in Dunedin. Although I played that night I spent the entire day in bed,” said De Allende.

“I brought the flu back with me and I didn’t train at all last week. I was stuffed when I came off the field after the Blues game and I had to see the doctor. I also suffered a bit of heatstroke as well. It was a hot day. But apart from a bit of a nose issue, I am feeling a lot better now.”

That he wasn’t well only adds to the two performances that De Allende turned in against the Highlanders and the Blues. Stormers coach Robbie Fleck says De Allende was his team’s choice as man of the match in Dunedin, while apart from his strong carries and physical defensive effort, the Blues game will be remembered for De Allende twice putting the legendary Sonny Bill Williams on his back.

The product of Milnerton High School comes across as almost embarrassed when asked about his performance against Sonny Bill.

“I don’t see it as a big deal,” he grinned sheepishly. “I mean I know Sonny Bill is a great player, but everyone has their moments. Last year he got me and this time I got him. That is just the way it is in rugby. New week it will probably be someone different.”

Next week will in fact be a personal duel with Wallaby star Samu Kerevi when the Stormers clash with the Reds at Newlands and De Allende will play another important role for the team in combating a big opposition midfield. It will be his sixth game in succession for the Stormers, and that is where it does become correct to focus on De Allende’s fitness. He is getting the game time now that he hasn’t had since 2015 and perhaps that tells us why he is returning to his best form.

“It is going well and I must just keep working hard and take it week by week,” said De Allende.

“I had a good pre-season but last year I was in the same boat in terms of having a good pre-season but then got injured (in the first game against the Bulls). It is always tough to come back and it is hard to recover your form when you are not getting game time. I came back quicker than expected from my injury last year but was then quickly injured again so it was very frustrating.”

What probably added to De Allende’s frustrations last year was the fact that he is a Springbok contracted player and therefore did not get an extended opportunity to play himself back to momentum in the Currie Cup. Instead he spent a lot of time on tour with the Boks either not playing or playing minimally. It was enough to help him get back his form and momentum.

De Allende sees Saturday’s challenge at Newlands as a big one for him personally as he sees the Reds as a team that is similar to the Stormers – in other words they base a lot around a big ball carrying midfield, Kerevi in particular.

“He (Kerevi) is a very good player. He is a big ball carrier and the Reds are much like us in that they carry through the midfield. But our defence off set-phase is really good at the moment, and we feel like we are well prepared again for Saturday. We have had a good look already at what we have to do and we feel we have the right mindset for the game.”

De Allende speaks highly of the other Damian in the Stormers team, flyhalf Damian Willemse. The pair have developed a good onfield relationship and understanding on both attack and defence.

“Communication (between flyhalf and inside centre) is very important on defence and we have one of the most important jobs on set piece. We do have bad moves every now and then but most of the time we are well connected. Damian is a good kid and a quality player so I don’t have to watch my back and we take good lines off each other.

“He has good feet and his quite nippy as well so sometimes you just have to read him on the field, but you get used to it and we are building up an understanding. The important thing is that we mustn’t put him under pressure. There is a lot of responsibility that comes with playing No 10, such as kick-offs and restarts etc, and I think he is the spark to our backline at the moment because of the speed at which he gets things going, but we don’t want to put pressure on him. I think myself and (centre partner) EW (Viljoen) see it as part of our job to try and keep the pressure off him.”


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