DHL Stormers and Springboks centre Damian de Allende is at the crossroads of his South African professional career. I’m backing him to deliver in 2018 on the form that unfortunately has been absent since the 2015 World Cup.
De Allende, in 2016 and 2017, was an impersonator of the player who formed such an attacking Springbok threat outside Handre Pollard and inside Jessie Kriel.
The trio were that impressive pre the 2015 World Cup year that All Blacks coach Steve Hanson publicly noted that ‘South Africa may just have found their back attack’.
It was all too fleeting and Pollard and De Allende have both struggled with injury and indifferent form in the last two seasons, and Kriel has produced the odd cameo without ever promising permanence on the Test scene.
All three are so talented but it’s De Allende that has the most to gain and lose in 2018. If he doesn’t find the mojo that was there his future could be playing club rugby in Europe. He would be successful in France but forever be remembered here as a Springbok player whose career performance never mirrored his potential.
I am hopeful of a De Allende revival in 2018. I know he is a player South Africa’s National Director of Rugby Rassie Erasmus is willing to succeed. Erasmus rates him but will only pick him if his 2018 form is the equal of three years ago. He is not going to select him because of historic form.
Nizaam Carr is another who can make a statement that he belongs in the national squad. He is the most skilled loose-forward in this country and his recent stint at Wasps has only added to his all-round game.
Carr was brilliant in the 2017 Currie Cup. Expect more of the same this season.
Players who could also enhance their national aspirations in the next month include Sharks backs Sbu Nkosi, Makezole Mapimpi and Lukhanyo Am. Robert du Preez, if he stays fit till June, will also be among the names in Erasmus’s Springbok squad.
The Lions midfield of Rohan Janse van Rensburg and Harold Vorster have the chance to impress a new Bok coach because they never quite managed to convince Allister Coetzee of their worth. Former Paarl Boys High and WP Schools centre Manny Rass is another who will get game time, despite still being under 19.
Saturday’s Super Rugby showdown in Johannesburg between the Lions and the Sharks is the game of the weekend, but it’s the early game at Newlands that will provide an early glimpse of the class of Carr and the comeback of De Allende, who will start at No 8 and inside centre respectively.
15 Dillyn Leyds, 14 Seabelo Senatla, 13 EW Viljoen, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Raymond Rhule, 10 Damian Willemse, 9 Dewaldt Duvenage, 8 Nizaam Carr, 7 Cobus Wiese, 6 Siya Kolisi (captain), 5 JD Schickerling, 4 Chris van Zyl, 3 Wilco Louw, 2 Bongi Mbonambi, 1 Steven Kitshoff.
Bench: 16 Ramone Samuels, 17 JC Janse van Rensburg, 18 Carlü Sadie, 19 Jan de Klerk, 20 Kobus van Dyk, 21 Justin Phillips, 22 George Whitehead, 23 JJ Engelbrecht.