Damian de Allende and Lukhanyo Am continue to form a formidable midfield combination that could eventually see them surpass the Bok Test pairing record held by Jean de Villiers and Jaque Fourie, writes CRAIG LEWIS.
Both De Allende (29-years-old) and Am (27) are still on the right side of 30. As a combination, they have now been part of successful Rugby Championship, World Cup and Lions series campaigns.
The duo have featured as the Boks’ starting midfield pairing in 14 Tests. That number will increase to 15 as they resume duties in the midfield against Argentina this Saturday.
By the end of the year, fitness and form permitting, De Allende and Am could quite possibly extend their starting appearances alongside each other to around 20 Tests.
That would take them past another legendary duo of De Wet Barry and Marius Joubert, who played together in 18 Tests as a centre combination.
Still in another league altogether, De Villiers and Fourie remain the most iconic Springbok midfield duo, and famously seemed to almost be able to read each other’s mind when it came to orchestrating backline plays for a decade between 2003 and 2013.
Yet, without much fuss or fanfare, De Allende and Am have begun to move into a modern-day class of their own.
In global rugby circles, both players are widely regarded to be the leading centres in each position, and as a combination there are none better in world rugby.
If De Allende is the Boks’ blunt-force weapon in the midfield, Am strikes just as incisively with pinpoint defensive reads and subtle touches on attack such as the famous no-look pass in the World Cup final.
It’s been a period of widespread milestones for the Springbok squad. De Allende himself just earned his 50th Test cap, following on from Steven Kitshoff, Handre Pollard and Siya Kolisi, who all achieved the same milestone in their last few internationals.
Lood de Jager will reach the 50-Test cap mark this weekend, while Trevor Nyakane is just three appearances away from his half-century.
It all paints a picture of a Springbok squad that will boast remarkable experience when the defence of their World Cup title rolls around in 2023.
All of a sudden, that tournament doesn’t actually feel that far away. Yet there is plenty of Test match rugby still to be played before that global showpiece, and nothing to suggest that De Allende and Am won’t continue to evolve and expand their midfield partnership.
Becoming the Springboks’ most-ever capped centre combination will certainly not be on their radar, but it’s also not an insignificant prospect.
They are now halfway to the remarkable 29-Test pairing record of De Villiers and Fourie, and with the amount of international rugby on the calendar nowadays, that number is really not that far away.
Similarly, Faf de Klerk and Handre Pollard (18 Tests as a halfback duo) are soon set to surpass Fourie du Preez and Morne Steyn (19), and are also well in line to go beyond Joost van der Westhuizen and Henry Honiball (24) to become the Boks’ leading 9-10 combination in Bok history.
Eben Etzebeth and Lood de Jager (24 Tests together) won’t go beyond the famed lock combination of Victor Matfield and Bakkies Botha (63), but will undoubtedly move into second spot in the Bok record books once they surpass Mark Andrews and Krynauw Otto (25).
This current class of Springbok players are increasingly establishing themselves as one of the greatest generations in the modern era.
De Allende and Am, with plenty of Test rugby ahead of them, could especially go down as arguably the best-ever Springbok centre pairing.
And considering the competition, that is an extraordinary prospect.