- Ace Springbok centre Damian de Allende expressed his gratitude for being on a rugby field again after last month's fire pit accident in Ireland that left him and RG Snyman with significant burns.
- The midfielder admitted that the incident "left me in shock" and made him realise things could've been a lot worse.
- But he's now looking ahead and admits the continuity in selection for Saturday's first Test against the Lions is reassuring given the squad's general lack of game time.
It didn't take long for Damian de Allende to prove his worth in a Springbok jersey again after he delivered two accomplished performances for South Africa 'A' last week.
The influential midfielder will, however, tell you that he's merely lucky to be on the field again.
De Allende and injured lock RG Snyman last month were victims of a bizarre fire pit accident while still on duty for Irish club Munster, sustaining significant burns that saw their return to South Africa being delayed and their participation against the British & Irish Lions being put in serious doubt.
The unfortunate Snyman is also still recovering from a long-term knee injury.
Yet, in circumstances that dictated he play two matches in one week, De Allende managed to regain some match fitness without any hiccups.
15 Willie le Roux, 14 Cheslin Kolbe, 13 Lukhanyo Am, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Makazole Mapimpi, 10 Handre Pollard, 9 Faf de Klerk, 8 Kwagga Smith, 7 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 6 Siya Kolisi (captain), 5 Franco Mostert, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Trevor Nyakane, 2 Bongi Mbonambi, 1 Ox Nche
Substitutes: 16 Malcolm Marx, 17 Steven Kitshoff, 18 Frans Malherbe, 19 Lood de Jager, 20 Rynhardt Elstadt, 21 Herschel Jantjies, 22 Elton Jantjies, 23 Damian Willemse
British & Irish Lions
15 Stuart Hogg (Scotland), 14 Anthony Watson (England), 13 Elliot Daly (England), 12 Robbie Henshaw (Ireland), 11 Duhan van der Merwe (Scotland), 10 Dan Biggar (Wales), 9 Ali Price (Scotland), 8 Jack Conan (Ireland), 7 Tom Curry (England), 6 Courtney Lawes (England), 5 Alun Wyn Jones (captain, Wales), 4 Maro Itoje (England), 3 Tadhg Furlong (Ireland), 2 Luke Cowan-Dickie (England), 1 Wyn Jones (Wales)
Substitutes: 16 Ken Owens (Wales), 17 Rory Sutherland (Scotland), 18 Kyle Sinckler (England), 19 Tadhg Beirne (Ireland), 20 Hamish Watson (Scotland), 21 Conor Murray (Ireland), 22 Owen Farrell (England), 23 Liam Williams (Wales)
"I was so lucky. I'm really grateful," said the 29-year-old after being included in the Boks' starting XV for Saturday's first Test in Cape Town.
"I'm very glad that I got through some game minutes over the past week. It was tough to play two games in one week, I haven't done that in a long time. But it was good."
De Allende, understandably, wasn't keen on divulging much details of that fateful night, but admitted that the ordeal left him shaken.
"It happened and I'm just grateful it didn't end up being worse than it is. I think a guy like RG got the worst of it and I feel really sorry for him. He's going through a lot at the moment," he said.
"I'm just glad I got to play rugby again. After it happened, I went into a bit of shock.
"I got to hospital and was given morphine that probably had me thinking this is a bit of a joke. But once it wore off and the pain kicked in, it really struck me how bad the incident was and how much worse it could've been."
As a result, De Allende is now ditching the past and focusing on ticking another box - beating the Lions - in an international career that's blossomed over the past two years.
He admitted the presence of all six other backline members that played alongside him in 2019's World Cup final is reassuring and allows the Boks to compensate for a lack of game time going into the Test.
"It makes a massive difference. After what happened to RG and I, there were a lot of changes in terms of the squad too. It could've been tough [to adapt]," said De Allende.
"Thankfully it's not. We haven't played together since the World Cup, but our relationships on and off the field are still very strong. It almost allows us to be ourselves and all fitting in seamlessly again."
Kick-off on Saturday is at 18:00.