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Stormers won’t risk De Allende

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Shopprice South Africa

The Stormers are going to resist the urge to start star centre Damian de Allende in their much-anticipated Super Rugby match against the Lions on Saturday (kick-off 7:15pm). De Allende came off the bench in the Stormers’ 46-19 hammering of the Sunwolves at Newlands on Friday night. It was his first match in almost four months, after injuring his ankle while playing for Japanese clubs side Kintetsu Liners.

De Allende got a rousing reception when he stepped onto the Newlands turf, and showed a few nice touches, including a break when he beat some of the Japanese team’s defenders. However, Stormers coach Robbie Fleck said that they want to give the big centre a bit more time to get up to speed in terms of his match fitness, while they also want him to become more streamlined as far as his weight is concerned after the injury.

“He has got a fair way to go, but he did show directness and he brought some physicality to the side, and gave us a bit of direction there,” Fleck said. “I told him afterwards if he was a couple of kilos lighter he would have scored the try at the end there! “He has worked incredibly hard to get back to his full fitness. Like I said during the week, we have got to manage him. We can’t push him too hard, because he is coming back from a really big injury.

“Guys like Damian, we are not going to rush them too hard. Our responsibility is to get them back to full match fitness.” This essentially means that Johnny Kotze is going to stay at outside centre for the match against the Lions and their in-form midfield duo of Howard Mnisi and Lionel Mapoe.

Kotze played one of his best matches of the season against the Sunwolves, and broke the line a few times with hard running and power. This could have been a direct result of De Allende occupying a spot on the bench.

But Kotze is still not making those breaks count by finding the open man when he hits the gap. There were a few times when the outside centre could have found right wing Kobus van Wyk on his outside, but decided to hold onto the ball and take contact.

It’s the main flaw of his game. If he can be more aware of his surroundings each time he breaks the line, and maybe execute those passes properly, he could actually become a very good player. “He did (have a few linebreaks). It was good to see him run nice and hard, fending off a couple of players. (But) I think he had two opportunities to pass with Kobus on his outside,” Fleck said.

“It’s pleasing to see Johnny running nice and hard again, he is slowly building his confidence. Damian is going to be on the bench until we get him back up to speed, and I felt that Damian’s presence on the bench definitely lifted Johnny’s game.”

The match between the Stormers and the Lions at Ellis Park this coming weekend could be a cracker. It’s going to pit South Africa’s two best Super Rugby sides against each other, and the two sides most likely to represent the country in the playoffs.

The Lions did enough to see off the one-dimensional Sharks 9-24, while the Stormers produced their best attacking performance of the campaign to power past a rather average Sunwolves side. But, while the Stormers’ attack was good, their defence wasn’t. The only reason why the Japanese side managed to get 19 points was because the Stormers missed a lot of one-on-one tackles. In fact, they missed 30 of them on Friday night.

The Lions have a lot more quality than the Sunwolves at the back. And, if you slip tackles against them, they will punish you. Hard.

Fleck mentioned after the match that the Stormers may have taken their foot off the gas after scoring a few top tries in the first 30 minutes of the match. It’s something they can’t afford to do against their South African rivals. “It’s certainly not good (to miss those tackles). Where our defence was good against the Brumbies and the Jaguares, we felt let ourselves down (against the Sunwolves),” Fleck said.

“Certainly the one-on-one missed tackles were disappointing, and we dropped off on our work-rate. We were late in setting rucks, and that gave the space and opportunities to have (a) go one-on-one. You can’t miss 30-odd tackles if you want to be championship side. “The Lions are a quality outfit and they are certainly going to be up for it next weekend. But I think we will be as well.” – Cape Times

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