He has the passing game for when conditions allow it
Stormers coach Allister Coetzee says Damian de Allende has the potential to be the long-term successor of captain Jean de Villiers.
De Allende filled in for De Villiers, who is struggling with a sternum injury, and made an impression in Saturday’s 28-3 win over the Cheetahs, averaging almost 10 metres per carry and finishing the match with an unrivalled 79 metres and one try assist.
De Villiers has owned the Stormers No.12 jersey for most of his time at the Cape franchise, but with the Springbok skipper becoming more susceptible to injuries and entering the twilight of his career, an heir to his throne will need to be identified and nurtured sooner rather than later.
De Allende has the same physical attributes as De Villiers, both weighing 100kg with De Villiers (1.91m) slightly taller than De Allende (1.89m).
A hard runner, the versatile De Allende can play either inside or outside centre and made his Currie Cup debut for the triumphant Western Province team on the wing last year.
Coetzee on Monday said he’s pleased with the progress the 21-year-old is making in his debut Super Rugby season and is becoming an integral member of the team.
"He's done very well and his development is going according to plan," said Coetzee.
"Importantly, it's how he's matured. He's matured in that he understands the details of our structures, he doesn't play on instinct, he communicates well as a 12. He's becoming a part of the decision-making process and the backbone of the team.
"It's one thing in a player's development to start playing well and another to know what to do to play well when the pressure is on and he's in that phase of his development. He understands what we want to achieve, the plan and his role within the plan."
Although new on the Super Rugby scene, De Allende has come under criticism for his knack to take contact in midfield. Nick Mallett in his post-match analysis on Saturday highlighted that De Allende’s running with the ball in one hand made it obvious to defenders that he wasn't looking to distribute the ball.
Coetzee indicated that criticism of De Allende being one-dimensional was unjust and said he possesses an all-round skill set.
"Another reason why I say he’s mature is he plays the conditions well. You can't expect him to have a passing game with a wet, slippery ball, that's why he used his physicality," said Coetzee.
"He has the passing game for when conditions allow it. We know he can kick well too, he has an underrated boot, but it's not expected of him at this stage."