In the space of just 12 months, DHL Western Province starlet Damian de Allende has gone from the FNB Varsity Cup tournament, to the Vodacom Cup, to the Absa Currie Cup… and, now, he is on the verge of making his Vodacom Super Rugby competition debut for the DHL Stormers.
De Allende was a star for UCT in the 2012 Varsity Cup and he was part of the enlarged WP squad that traveled to Kimberley for the Vodacom Cup Final in May 2012, although he did not make the final matchday group.
In the Currie Cup Final in October of last year, he was thrust into the starting line-up in the all-important No.12 jersey – just a week after replacing Springbok captain Jean de Villiers in the 22 for DHL WP’s dramatic semifinal clash against the Golden Lions.
And to top it all off, the 21-year-old will now be partnering the selfsame De Villiers on his Super Rugby debut – against the three-times champion Bulls at Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria.
De Villiers will start at outside centre, with De Allende on his inside, and the experienced midfielder said of his new Super Rugby centre-mate: “I think he’s a great player – you certainly wouldn’t think (that) he’s playing in his first Super Rugby game!
“He enjoys what he’s doing and he enjoys being in this environment and he’s damn good at what he does – those are great qualities to have,” added De Villiers.
“I’m quite excited about playing with him and it takes the load off myself and Juan (de Jongh) knowing that there are three guys – including Jaco (Taute) and Bryan (Habana) – who can also slot in at centre. All in all, the depth in our squad is much better this year.”
Dawie Snyman, the backline coach of the DHL Western Province Vodacom Cup side, coached De Allende for most of last year – at Vodacom Cup and Under-21 level – and he quickly saw something special in the former Milnerton High School scholar.
“Damian has a great work ethic,” enthused Snyman ahead of De Allende’s Super Rugby debut.
“He first played in our Under-21 side in 2011 and although he didn’t play much he was always there and he always trained hard. It was the same in the (2012) Vodacom Cup – he didn’t play a lot but he kept working hard.
“But, despite his limited game time at first, you could always see there was something special about him. He’s a balanced runner, his passing is one of his biggest attributes and he’s got all the size, skill and power to go with the subtleties in his game.”
Making De Allende’s rise even more impressive is the fact that he did not play Craven Week rugby whilst at school.
Snyman pointed out: “Never once has he looked out of depth – he’s always hungry to learn and get better. Maybe it’s because he didn’t come from one of the so-called ‘traditional’ rugby schools.
“I think he will get better the more he plays and the more he builds his confidence. Of course, playing alongside Jean de Villiers, Bryan Habana and co. – it can only be good for his rugby. His ‘rugby education’ will be that more rapid.
“I don’t think he would’ve imagined this (starting in his first Super Rugby game) a year ago… but nothing seems to faze him! In last year’s Absa Currie Cup Final he didn’t look under pressure and even though Vodacom Super Rugby is a different kind of pressure he is good enough and clever enough to focus on his own game come Friday.”