Springboks barometer: Damian De Allende still has inside lane

Damian de Allende of South Africa during the 2023 Rugby World Cup South Africa Arrival at the OR Tambo International Airport, Johannesburg

Inside centre Damian de Allende, at 32 still remains the first-choice for the Springboks. Picture: Muzi Ntombela/BackpagePix

Published Feb 2, 2024


South Africa’s teams are progressing nicely in the European competitions and that should give the Springboks a solid platform for June’s incoming matches against Ireland and Portugal.

Independent Newspapers is doing a series looking at the options open to coach Rassie Erasmus.

So far, we have certainties in fullback Damian Willemse, right wing Cheslin Kolbe and outside centre Lukhanyo Am.

Here, we look at inside centre …

Hot competition

The incumbent: Damian de Allende

The contenders: André Esterhuizen, Marius Louw, Francois Venter, Harold Vorster

At 32, De Allende is still in his prime as a centre, and his excellent form at the Rugby World Cup suggests he will continue to own the No 12 jersey for some time to come.

He is on 77 caps for the Springboks, and could well go on to get his ton because he is so good at what he does – at 102kg and 1.89m, he is a powerful physical specimen.

On attack, he has the power to finish from anywhere in the opposition’s 22, but he has also learnt to offload in the tackle.

On defence, nothing gets past him.

De Allende’s deputy at last year’s World Cup, André Esterhuizen, ticks the same boxes.

In most other top countries, the 29-year-old would have way more than his 19 caps, but he is unlucky to be in the same generation as De Allende.

Producing for Harlequins

Esterhuizen has played sensationally for English club Harlequins for several seasons, and the Boks are lucky to have him as back-up for De Allende.

Of the pack hovering below the two blockbusters, the player who has come through and put his hand up with consistently innovative performances is Marius Louw.

I still can’t figure out why the Sharks did not renew his contract – they backed the wrong horse in signing Rohan Janse van Rensburg, who has flopped in Durban – but the Lions are grateful because captain Louw delivers every week.

The former loose forward plays with his heart on his sleeve, and his incredible work ethic means he often finishes tries because of his support play.

The Lions almost beat the Bulls last week thanks to the inspiration of their No 12.

The former Bok centre, Francois Venter, has come into good form at the Sharks.

He played seven Tests in 2016/17, and of late has combined nicely with Am for the Durbanites.


He is a solid, reliable player, and could do a job if the Boks have an injury crisis.

The same could be said of Harold Vorster at the Bulls.

He is very similar to Venter. Also a better bet if No 12s are thin on the ground is the flair of Dan du Plessis.

The Stormers star is the son of the 1980s Bok centre Michael du Plessis, who was often described as mercurial, and Dan may yet find his way to the top after returning to action from a three-month injury lay-off in late December.