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Damian de Allende can flourish as a Bok No 13, but will he display his full skill-set against Italy?

Damian de Allende can flourish as a Bok No 13, but will he display his full skill-set against Italy?

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Cape Town — It was wonderful to see Lukhanyo Am receive a nomination for the World Player of the Year award this week, but that was also a reminder about just how much the Springboks are missing their star No 13 at the moment.

Am just has that knack to create something out of nothing, to be in the right place at the right time, and to maintain his discipline in defence as well. He is a class act, and let’s hope that he wins the award.

But he won’t be present at the Stadio Luigi Ferraris in Genoa on Saturday (3pm kick-off), when the Boks take on Italy looking to avoid a third consecutive defeat.

The world champions should have too much firepower for the Azzurri up front, but one of the most intriguing selections is that of Damian de Allende at outside centre.

Jesse Kriel has been filling in for the injured Am in recent Test matches, and both Bok coach Jacques Nienaber and Director of Rugby Rassie Erasmus expressed their happiness with his displays against Ireland and France.

Kriel was certainly more involved in defence, making some big hits and good reads, but is more of a straight, hard runner at No 13 and is a different player to Am.

So is De Allende – or is he? The former Stormers stalwart, who will turn 31 next week, has been a physical rock at No 12 for many years, putting his body on the line as he takes on defenders head-on with ball-in-hand and brings down big loose forwards charging down his channel.

But speak to any of his former coaches over the years, and they will tell you that the Milnerton High School product possesses a wonderful passing game and has a massive boot as well.

Bok fans have seldom seen those skills on display, though, so could the Italy Test unveil the full range of De Allende’s talent now that he is at outside centre?

The situation certainly demands that kind of creative approach. Andre Esterhuizen is well equipped to fulfil De Allende’s usual ‘battering ram’ job description at No 12, and he will be keen to get stuck into Italian opposite number Luca Morisi (1.83m, 95kg), who is 10cm shorter and 18kg lighter than the Bok powerhouse (1.93m, 113kg).

De Allende (1.91m, 105kg) is up against Juan Ignacio Brex (1.89m, 99kg), who is a sturdy opponent and won’t take a backward step.

So, the Bok No 13 has the opportunity to prove that he can be a solid solution when Am is not available by getting the ball away to the likes of Cheslin Kolbe, Kurt-Lee Arendse and Willie le Roux, while also attracting enough Italians to create space with his little grubber and chip kicks.

De Allende has amassed 68 Test caps since 2014 and has the necessary gumption to play a leading role in helping the Bok attack to continue to evolve into a more dangerous element – which was evident against France in Marseille.

His finest moment in a Bok jersey has to be his solo try against Wales in the 2019 World Cup semi-final, where he held off a number of tacklers to score a vital touchdown.

Hopefully we will see more of that in Genoa …

@ashfakmohamed

IOL Sport

Original Article

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