‘Damian can play anywhere’

Springbok assistant coach Ricardo Loubscher says Damian de Allende's versatility will be a major asset to the national team this season. CRAIG LEWIS reports.

De Allende was one of the few fully fit centres named in the extended Springbok squad at the end of last month.

The talented 23-year-old displayed impressive form throughout the Vodacom Super Rugby season, emerging as a strong contender for a Bok starting berth in the midfield.

‘Damian had a brilliant Super Rugby season and hopefully he can carry that over into international rugby,’ Loubscher said at a Bok press conference in Cape Town on Monday.

‘Over the last year we’ve had time to work with him on all the small details, the one percenters. I’ve been very impressed with his form this year. He’s versatile, he can play at 12, 13 or wing, he's showed for the Stormers he can play anywhere and that’s hopefully a skill-set we can use.’

Although the Boks’ midfield stocks look particularly strong at inside centre, there's less certainty around who is the best candidate to wear the No 13 jersey.

‘Well, Schalk Brits told me he’s available [to play at outside centre],' Loubscher joked in reference to the versatile Saracens hooker. ‘But no, seriously, we have guys like Lionel [Mapoe], Damian, and then there’s Jean [de Villiers] coming back. They’re all looking in good nick, we just need to get all the guys on the same page and ensure they see the same picture.’

Frans Steyn was one of the players who was recently released from the Bok squad to continue his rehabilitation from a pectoral injury in Durban, and Loubscher said he would desperately like to see the Sharks centre back in action.

‘It’s really unfortunate with his injury. We don’t need to talk about the qualities Frans brings to the table, they’re well known … That experience is important to us, and that’s why we have a big squad so we can look at a lot of players.’

Team doctor Craig Roberts said if all went well, they hoped Steyn would be available to face Argentina during the latter stage of the Rugby Championship.

Roberts said there was generally good news with regards to the other centres who had been carrying injuries.

‘Jan Serfontein [hip and knee injury] is very close to playing, he’s one who we will monitor during training. If he gets through that he will be available for this Saturday [against the World XV].

‘We are very happy with Mapoe [knee injury], he had a good session this morning and he’s available for selection.

‘We continue to be very happy with the progress Jean is making. We pulled him out of a tiny bit of the recent training sessions just in terms of volume and work load, but he’s come through really well. We’re very happy with him, and so it’s now up to the coach to decide when to select him … With Jean we’d ideally like to have him play 20 minutes and build it up and see how his knee responds to the load of playing.’

Roberts confirmed that Jaque Fourie doesn’t have an injury, but that they were continuing to work on his conditioning as per a request from his Japanese club, the Kobelco Steelers.

Photo: Gabriel Rossi/Gallo Images

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Craig Lewis