That skill alone was the difference between being an ordinary “basher” at inside centre and a special player.
De Allende played flat on the advantage line, brought his teammates into play and was voted as the SA Super Rugby Player of the Year.
But then an ankle injury while on club duty in Japan kept him sidelined for nearly four months, and he missed the first part of the Stormers’ campaign this year. De Allende hasn’t rekindled his 2015 form since, playing too far behind the advantage line, not getting passes away, and even missing tackles.
He won’t be returning to Japan for the next two years as he is contracted to SA Rugby, although he said he would like to return to the Far East in future.
“I played a lot last year, and I only had four days off and flew out to Japan. I landed there on the Saturday or Sunday, and started training on the Monday. So I didn’t get any rest last year, which was quite tough as well on the body,” De Allende said in Florence ahead of Saturday’s Test against Italy.
“(The lack of form) It’s been tough. I didn’t think it would be that tough to come back from a big injury. But as I’ve been progressing through this year, I feel it’s gotten better. Especially now joining the end-of-year tour, I feel a lot more confident and more positive, where I think I struggled a bit in the Championship with confidence.
“I base myself a lot on confidence. I feel a lot more positive and more relaxed, and I enjoyed it a lot more on the field. I feel I was putting in a lot more stress and a lot of pressure on myself in the Championship.
“I think I’ve worked on my fitness a bit, which has helped quite a bit. What has helped is more game time and more fitness. It’s difficult… The games I got left out of in the Championship, was probably because I wasn’t on form, which I agree with because I wasn’t 100 percent. That allowed me to work on my fitness, and that’s helped me now over the last few weeks.”
The 24-year-old concedes that his offloading game has deserted him. “I agree 100 percent. Like I said, it just comes with confidence. As these three weeks have gone by, I’ve gotten a lot more confident on the training pitch. I’ve tried things that I tried last year, and I feel I’m getting there, slowly but surely,” De Allende said.
“But I won’t force the process, it will come over time. When I get the opportunity to offload, I will look for it. But I’m not going to force anything at the moment.”
But the Springboks are desperate at the moment. They’ve won just four of 10 Tests under Allister Coetzee in 2016, and were well-beaten by England at Twickenham.
Italy won’t be pushovers on Saturday, despite going down 68-10 to the All Blacks at the weekend. They will have a competitive pack that will look to test the Bok scrum, and be fiery in the physical exchanges with a partisan home crowd behind them.
Coetzee and the Boks need De Allende to find that spark again. It is an indictment on South Africa’s attacking strategy that the “big move” against England was throwing a lineout ball straight to De Allende, which assistant coach Johann van Graan described yesterday as “quite special. We targeted (George) Ford, had a one-on-one and ran straight over him”, and it ended with Pat Lambie slotting a left-footed drop goal.
Surely De Allende and the Boks can actually create a try against Italy, even though the Azzurri have Brendan Venter as a defence consultant at the moment?
Original source: I was putting a lot of pressure on myself, says De Allende