Damian de Allende and Jesse Kriel are set to start their 11th Test as a centre combination in the Springboks’ clash against the All Blacks this Saturday, writes CRAIG LEWIS in Pretoria.
When De Allende was forced from the field clutching his shoulder during the Boks’ last clash against New Zealand in Wellington on 15 September, the initial fears were that he would not feature again in the Rugby Championship.
However, De Allende has made a speedy recovery, and is now set to resume his duties at inside centre in the only expected change to the backline for this weekend’s clash against the All Blacks.
It shouldn’t go unnoticed that this will be the 11th Test in which De Allende and Kriel line up alongside each other in the midfield. It will make them the fifth-most experienced centre combination in Springbok history.
Adrian Jacobs and Jean de Villiers started as a combination in 14 Tests, as did Hennie le Roux and Japie Mulder. De Wet Barry and Marius Joubert are second on the centre-pairing list with 18 Tests together, while De Villiers and Jaque Fourie are streaks ahead with 28.
Slowly but surely, De Allende and Kriel are working their way up that list, and the latter told the media in Pretoria on Tuesday that he was certainly looking forward to resuming this partnership.
‘Damian is a world-class player, and what he brings to the table is pretty special, he has a great skill set and can take guys on, while he’s also really strong on defence,’ Kriel commented.
‘With him coming back in, we’ve obviously played together a few times before, and we’re comfortable with each other on attack or defence. Then we have Handré [Pollard] on the inside, and the three of us have played together from 2015, so we’ve got a lot of confidence heading into the weekend.’
The All Blacks are expected to deploy fit-again Sonny Bill Williams in their midfield, and Kriel said they were fully aware of what threats he would pose.
‘That’s one of his big skills [offloading] and it’s something that we’re aware of, but we’ll be looking to focus on what we need to do well, rather than just on one player of theirs.’
The Bok backline ran with real purpose during a lengthy training session in warm and windy Pretoria on Tuesday, and they certainly look to have a few innovative ideas in mind to break down the All Blacks’ aggressive defence.
Up front, it’s expected that industrious loosehead prop Steven Kitshoff will rotate in to start ahead of Beast Mtawarira, while the recall of experienced loose forward Francois Louw suggests he is set for his first start since week two of the Rugby Championship.
The Boks are set to name their team at 1:30pm on Thursday.
Springboks (probable) – 15 Willie le Roux, 14 Cheslin Kolbe, 13 Jesse Kriel, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Aphiwe Dyantyi, 10 Handré Pollard, 9 Faf de Klerk, 8 Francois Louw, 7 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 6 Siya Kolisi (c), 5 Franco Mostert, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Malcolm Marx, 1 Steven Kitshoff.
Photo: Wessel Oosthuizen/Gallo Images