De Allende slowly getting back to his brutal best
Cape Town – In 2015 centre‚ Damian de Allende was on the cusp of becoming a Springbok regular and possible future Test great.
But then it all came crashing down through a series of injuries and poor decisions.
But after five rounds of the 2018 Super Rugby season‚ De Allende‚ who is now 26‚ is showing more than a hint of the form that made him such an eye-catching prospect nearly three years ago.
Last week‚ against the Blues and more accurately against the Blues midfield featuring Sonny Bill Williams and Rieko Ioane‚ De Allende gave a performance that will be spoken about for years.
What made it more impressive was that he was still struggling the effects of a vicious flu virus that had decimated the Stormers squad in the week leading up to the match.
He had not trained with the team but he only managed a ‘walk through’ at captain’s run on Friday before putting his feet up again.
But on match day‚ he delivered 65 minutes of inspired play that saw him twice put Sonny Bill on the seat of his pants while carving off impressive metres and marshalling the Stormers defence.
It was just a continuation of his form on the tour to New Zealand where he gave sparkling displays against the Crusaders and Highlanders.
By halftime against the Blues though‚ De Allende was running on empty.
“He was incredibly pale at halftime‚ I was worried about him‚” coach Robbie Fleck said.
He managed another 25 minutes through sheer force of will though.
Not that it stopped him making eight ball carries in total and carving off 78 metres in the game to bring his season’s tally to 415 running metres.
That’s third highest in the competition behind wings Melani Nanai and Aphiwe Dyantyi‚ who generally have more space to move.
Last year he looked set for another big season‚ if 63 minutes of Super Rugby in round one was enough to make a judgement.
In that time against the Bulls‚ De Allende caused endless problems with 85 running metres and three line breaks before sustaining a severe ankle injury that sidelined him for four months.
In 2016 his season also failed to get off the ground after he had only four days off between the 2015 season‚ that included playing for the Boks at the World Cup‚ before playing club rugby in Japan.
He was injured early in the campaign and never found his form later in the year.
“I’ve had a good pre-season and I felt refreshed going into this campaign‚” De Allende said.
“It was tough to come back last year because I didn’t get enough game time when I had recovered. I get my confidence from playing games and although I was two weeks ahead of schedule with my injury I never quite got going.
“Injuries are always a risk so I’m just enjoying my rugby at the moment.
“I didn’t feel that knocking over Sonny Bill was a big deal‚ everyone has their moments. He’s a great player and last year he got me and this time I managed to get him.
“Next week it could be different and I could be the victim‚ which is how the game goes‚ so I won’t take anything from that.
“The flu has been a problem. I was in bed all day before the Highlanders game in Dunedin and last Saturday against the Blues I was completely buggered when I came off the field. I had to go and see the doctor because I didn’t feel so good. I had a bi of heat stroke and low on energy.
“I still have a runny nose but I’m feeling much better.”
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