The Stormers No 12 was arguably the best inside centre in the world last year, and should’ve been named as the South African Player of the Year, an award which went to lock Lood de Jager.
But an ankle injury picked up on club duty in Japan in December meant that De Allende missed the first half of the Super Rugby season, and only returned to action against the Sunwolves on April 8.
The 24-year-old has battled to regain his touch, though, as he works his way back to full fitness. Those magical offloads in the tackle, tackle-busting breaks and big hits on defence have been missing from De Allende’s game.
The fact that his former coach Allister Coetzee is in charge of the Boks works in his favour, as Coetzee is likely to back his man even if he is not quite at his best yet.
But that is a dangerous situation to be in, for the player and the team, and it is situation in which Stormers coach Robbie Fleck finds himself at the moment. He knows the quality that De Allende possesses, and is confident that the Milnerton High product will be on top form soon.
“Damian is a committed guy. He’s a pro, and he wants to play his best rugby. He certainly knows that the focus is on him after a massive year last year. There is always going to be a focus on our top players to play at their best, and he’s not far off,” the coach said this week.
“There were one or two defensive errors against the Waratahs, but that was more than just him – it was the two or three guys around him as well. But certainly there were touches… He had a great run which led up to Pieter-Steph’s try.
“He is putting in the hard yards at training, and it’s just a matter of time. Class is permanent with him, and he is a class rugby player. Every week I’m getting more excited seeing him getting fitter, stronger and more confident in his game.
“He was extremely vocal in our defence session this week, which is what you want from your top-line players. He is just going to get better every week, and I’m looking forward to seeing how he goes.”
How long do you wait for that to happen, though? The lack of spark in De Allende’s game played a big role in the 32-30 defeat to the Waratahs, whereas his opposite number Kurtley Beale was a constant threat with ball-in-hand and made a huge impact at Newlands.
Coetzee is set to name his first Bok squad on May 28, the day the Stormers take on the Cheetahs at Newlands. It will be a last chance for De Allende to prove that he is 100 percent in terms of form and fitness.
Before that, a huge showdown with Jan Serfontein is on the cards when De Allende and the Stormers travel to Loftus Versfeld next week to take on the Bulls. Serfontein is getting back to the kind of form that made him one of the stars of the Junior Boks’ 2012 world championship triumph at Newlands, and he is pushing hard for the green-and-gold No 12 jersey.
And don’t count out Juan de Jongh as a Bok inside centre. He did quite well there in De Allende’s absence, and it is not inconceivable that he could partner Lions outside centre Lionel Mapoe in midfield for the opening Irish Test at Newlands on June 11.
In fact, that is arguably Coetzee’s best midfield combination at the moment in terms of form and experience. It is up to De Allende to prove otherwise over the next three weeks, starting with Saturday’s clash against the Sunwolves in Singapore (1.55pm kickoff SA time).
De Allende will come face to face with one of the Springbok slayers from last year’s shock defeat to Japan, Harumichi Tatekawa, who will captain the Sunwolves on Saturday.
The Stormers No 12 wasn’t part of the Bok side in Brighton last September, but needs to put his stamp on proceedings early on.
De Allende often has to cop jokes from conservative quarters about playing with his socks down at his ankles. But if ever there was a time to pull those up – figuratively – it’s now. And not just for the Stormers’ sake...
* Follow @IndyCapeSport on Twitter for live updates of the Sunwolves-Stormers match.
TEAMS FOR SINGAPORE
Sunwolves: 15 Riaan Viljoen, 14 Akihito Yamada, 13 Derek Carpenter, 12 Harumichi Tatekawa (captain), 11 John Stewart, 10 Tusi Pisi, 9 Atshushi Hiwasa, 8 Ed Quirk, 7 Andrew Durutalo, 6 Liaki Moli, 5 Faatiga Lemalu, 4 Timothy Bond, 3 Shinnosuke Kakinaga, 2 Takeshi Kizu, 1 Masataka Mikami.
Bench: 16 Shota Horie, 17 Ziun Gu, 18 Takuma Asahara, 19 Yoshia Hosoda, 20 Taiyo Ando, 21 Yuki Yatomi, 22 Yu Tamura, 23 Mifiposeti Paea.
Stormers: 15 Cheslin Kolbe, 14 Johnny Kotze, 13 Juan de Jongh (captain), 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Kobus van Wyk, 10 Jean-Luc du Plessis, 9 Louis Schreuder, 8 Nizaam Carr, 7 Siya Kolisi, 6 Rynhardt Elstadt, 5 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 4 JD Schickerling, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Scarra Ntubeni, 1 JC Janse van Rensburg.
Bench: 16 Bongi Mbonambi, 17 Oli Kebble, 18 Vincent Koch, 19 Sikhumbuzo Notshe, 20 Schalk Burger, 21 Nic Groom, 22 Brandon Thomson, 23 Huw Jones.
Referee: Paul Williams (New Zealand).
Kickoff: 1.55pm SA time.
Original source: De Allende must show Bok class