De Allende a surprise inclusion for Durban Test?

Damian de Allende (Gallo Images)
Damian de Allende (Gallo Images)

Cape Town - Damian de Allende was not named in the 35-man Springbok Rugby Championship squad on Monday, but he is not far away from a return.

In fact, Bok coach Rassie Erasmus has not yet ruled out the possibility of the 26-year-old inside centre featuring against Argentina in Durban in next weekend's Rugby Championship opener. 

It is surely unlikely, and in De Allende's absence Andre Esterhuizen is the favourite to wear the No 12 jersey, but Erasmus' words to media in Stellenbosch on Monday were curious. 

"Damian is not officially in the squad, but he is very close to being ready for the first game," Erasmus said.

"He might be ready, and I thought he was one of the guys who is slowly getting back to his best."

In the June Test series against England, De Allende was impressive as he showed glimpses of his best form for the first time in a long time in national colours. 

His hard, direct running was the foundation that the Boks built their attacking intensity on in the first two Tests, while he also showed a significant improvement in his offloading and passing ability. 

There is no doubt that, if fit, De Allende would remain the first-choice No 12 for the Boks heading into the Rugby Championship. 

If De Allende is not able to recover from his shoulder injury in time, that would leave Esterhuizen as the only specialist inside centre in the squad

The burly Sharks midfielder has started two Tests under Erasmus - and lost them both - to Wales in Washington and then to England in Cape Town. 

"I think a guy like Andre Esterhuizen had a tough run," Erasmus explained.

"Both games that he started were in the wet and it’s not always the nicest thing for the biggest boys. I think he must get a fair chance somewhere."

The other No 12 option in the squad comes in the form of flyhalf Handre Pollard, and Erasmus acknowledged on Monday that such a shift mid-game was a possibility. 

Montpellier's Jan Serfontein, meanwhile, is still on the Bok radar, but remains out in the cold for now. 

He has recovered from a rare thigh injury that plagued his European season in 2018, and Erasmus highlighted the importance of him getting fit and back to his best in France.

"Jan is a guy that at age-group level beat the Junior All Blacks and you can never throw that away," Erasmus said.

"I know he has had a bad injury which he is sorting out. I went to see him, and he is very keen to play for us. He wants to get back to form with his club.

"I can’t see him participating in the Rugby Championship."

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