It’s awesome to be back, says De Allende

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In a sense, Fleck can probably relate to the way the Stormers’ centre approaches the game better than anybody else. Fleck also came across as a laidback customer off the field, but played with lots of charisma, flair and excitement on it.

The Stormers coach certainly wants his players to express themselves on the field, and isn’t the type of coach to scold a player, who, let’s say, plays with his socks around his ankles.

“I must go gym my calves a bit!” De Allende joked on Friday when asked why he plays his rugby with his socks around his ankles. “It’s just something I have played with since high school, I haven’t got into trouble about it yet.”

Fleck, who was sitting next to him at the press conference then butted in and said “that’s his personality!”

But what Fleck is trying to do with De Allende is make him a leader in a team, to make him realise that he is actually one of the senior members of the side these days. A Springbok.

Last year was a breakthrough year for the 24-year-old De Allende. He was an unstoppable force for the Stormers in Super Rugby, and was also one of the standout Springbok players in a difficult year for the national team.

De Allende is a big boy, who takes some stopping when he goes through the gears. But he also has a bit of finesse, great feet and great hands.

This year he hasn’t quite made the same impact for the Stormers after he suffered an ankle injury while playing club rugby in Japan. In fact, he’s only had about an hour’s worth of Super Rugby action in 2016.

But this afternoon against the Reds at Newlands, the inside centre will make his first start for the year. He will also have the added responsibility of being the vice-captain of the team in the absence of the injured co-captain Juan de Jongh.

“It’s awesome to be back. I enjoyed my time off and I actually feel refreshed. I feel good, I feel healthy and I feel back on track after my injury. So I’m very excited to be back,” De Allende said. “I played about 60 minutes over the last two weeks. I think I can pull off 80, although last weekend was quite tough at altitude against the Lions.

“Fleckie has been helping me with my leadership skills.

“I think I filtered in quite nicely through the system. We have guys like SchalK (Burger) and Juan, who have been leaders in the team, and they have helped me quite a bit also.”

The Stormers lost an exciting encounter against the Lions and need to bounce back today to keep their place atop the South African conference and in the Africa 1 standings.

The loss to the Lions was only their second one of a campaign in which they have endeavoured to play a much more attacking brand of rugby. There have been some growing pains so far this season, but generally they have been progressing well on this path.

The one thing that may worry Fleck is that the players could be a bit cautious this afternoon after the defeat at Ellis Park. However, De Allende says there is no chance of that happening.

“There is pressure every week. But I think what is good is that we don’t put a lot of pressure on ourselves,” De Allende said.

“Whenever we play, we want to play and express ourselves on the field, which is important. There is a little pressure, but the way the boys have gone out and trained the whole week, it’s been quite enjoyable and everyone is still smiling.

“It’s not like we have crept back into our shells, which is quite important for us as well. We lost last week, but that is in the past. Our main focus is on the Reds, and hopefully we can get the win at home.”

Weekend Argus

Original source: It’s awesome to be back, says De Allende

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